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Talking Drowned Rats and Wrecked Restaurants With Business Owners in the South Street Seaport

DSC_3806-001.jpgHurricane Sandy devastated the historic South Street Seaport, an area that hasn't been getting much media attention. We found Ridgely Trufant, the general manager of Red, a Southwestern restaurant on Fulton Street, surveying soaked planked floors, upturned tables and smashed liquor bottles. "We're done," she said.

The East River roared up the cobblestone street like a tidal wave on Monday night. A water line six feet high was evident on bedraggled buildings. Nelson Blue, Suteishi, Jeremy's Ale House, Acqua, Barbarini Alimentari Mercato, the Paris Café and Pansanella & Sons Vintners looked like toast, at least for now.

Kevin Barry limped by, a partner and manager of the three-month-old restaurant Grandma's House on Peck Slip. He unlocked the door to show us the destroyed dining room. "This is the only thing I rescued," he said, holding up his orange Mario Batali crocs autographed by Guy Fieri.

Barry had a harrowing tale. He didn't evacuate Monday night and watched the storm come in. Suddenly he was running from a tidal wave and fell on the street (hence the limp). His car was parked on higher ground near the Seaport and he slept in it until dawn. When he woke he returned to Peck Slip where he saw "hundreds" of drowned rats littering the street. "Another guy and I shoveled them into garbage bags and dumped them in a construction site hole," he told me. Hundreds? I said, dumbfounded. "Yes," he said, "hundreds."

Rounding a corner we found Ridgely Trufant again, photographing her outdoor bar and beer cabinets, which had floated two blocks away and around the corner from her restaurant. The beer, of course, was gone.

"It's a war zone," Barry said. "But nobody's been here to see how bad it is and the cops are busy in other places. Everyone's trying to clean up by themselves."


Photo credit: Jim Knapp
The interior of Grandma's House; Ridgely Trufant in the red jacket surveying the damage at Red; Red's empty beer cabinets that floated away; Kevin Barry holding his crocs, the one thing he was able to rescue from his restaurant.

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