Rebuilding Hoboken – One Step At A Time

Hoboken is one of those places that has a little bit of everything. You have Maxwell’s right on the corner of 11th and Washington for your live music and food needs, Tunes for all the discs and records one’s heart could want, The Drum Den for all your percussion needs and so much more all in two square miles! You could even hop on a train and travel into neighboring NYC or even Jersey City! But when Hurricane Sandy hit, the vibrant city lost some of its luster with power outages, the PATH, and other rail lines down, as well as the flooding and damages to businesses and homes. Despite preparations, many were left stranded and needed to be rescued from their own homes. Others went days without power, heat, and even water for several days. Looking at Hoboken now, there’s not much to be seen as far as remnants from the historic storm, except for the chipped bits of the pier where the NY Waterway is housed and the damage to the side of the train station. There are, however, businesses and residents who are still recovering financially from the impact of Hurricane Sandy.

Located on 1st Street, the famed Guitar Bar is owned by James Mastrodimos. When asked about how the bar was affected by Sandy, Mastrodimos happily stated, “Fortunately, Guitar Bar itself did not suffer any physical damage—we’re just 50 feet away from where the flood zone usually begins. We were without power for a week, which obviously isn’t great for business, but we can’t complain about that.” With good news occasionally comes some bad news, though, which in this case, regarded Mastrodimos’ recording studio, The Pigeon Club. “Not so lucky was our recording [studio], The Pigeon Club, which was only a couple blocks away. That was devastated. We are currently in the process of trying to assess if some of the gear—probably only about 25 percent of total inventory that wasn’t totally submerged—is salvageable. Sad to say, we won’t be reopening The Pigeon Club.”

With the loss of equipment at The Pigeon Club, as well as it not surviving Sandy and the amount of time spent to reopen Guitar Bar, it comes as no surprise that significant profits were lost. “Guitar Bar is still recovering from loss of business, which is probably in the tens of thousands,” confirms Mastrodimos. “Understandably, our customers have had their priorities shift to rebuilding homes, relocating, buying furniture, etc. The studio is well into the hundreds of thousands in lost equipment.” However, the situation could have been much worse for Mastrodimos and Guitar Bar if smart preparations before the storm weren’t made. No matter how small the effort, every bit counts when faced with a storm of this nature. Mastrodimos had the right idea as far as how he prepared for the storm’s wrath, as he told me, “For Guitar Bar, we unplugged everything and taped up windows. For Pigeon Club, everything was raised well above previous flood lines—approximately three feet. But this storm brought in four and a half to five feet of water.”

Preparation before the hurricane proved to be a key move in order to save shops from losing inventory. Take, for instance, the advance efforts that Steven Serrano and the rest of the crew at Hoboken’s Romantic Depot took to prepare for the storm. “We taped down the storm door, so not that much water came in, and the windows were still intact when we came back—we just didn’t have power for a little while,” Serrano declared. “We got about an inch of water in the basement but we moved all the supplies up on palates and things so nothing was damaged. So we got off pretty lucky.” The adult novelty shop, whose busiest time of the year was shortly rolling around the corner after Sandy, made up for lost time and profits. Their other store, located in Paramus, went through similar steps to avoid the worst possible outcome. Despite the preparations, the Route 17 store lost one of its big signs.

Located on the second floor of its building, The Drum Den lucked out as well. “The building had about two feet of water on the ground level,” owner Pete Martinez said. “The building’s boiler had extensive damage, so we were without heat for about two weeks. Fortunately, our store is on the second floor, so we had minimal damage in our space.” Despite some damage to the structure that The Drum Den is housed in, Martinez knows things could’ve been much worse. “I consider myself to be extremely lucky since both my home and my business did not flood in the storm,” he continued. “Still, it was quite stressful to witness the destruction and devastation that our neighbors endured.” Even months later, there has been some outrage about people not receiving the assistance they need. When asked about what he would do differently as far as the cleanup was concerned, he had one issue he was concerned about. “Hoboken residents, city government, the National Guard, and FEMA did a great job getting information out and helping residents as best as they could,” Martinez said. However, “Hoboken’s streets were filthy after the storm and I wish the city could’ve put the street sweepers on overtime to keep minimize the dust and air pollution.”

Not only were we, as humans, affected, but we cannot forget about our furry, scaly, feathery and gilled friends. With homes destroyed, many pets found their way to the streets displaced from their loving families. Danielle Scardaville from You Lucky Dog, a quaint boutique and grooming salon for your pup, lost roughly between $5,000-6,000 as a result of the storm, but otherwise didn’t have any damage to the Washington St. shop. When asked about the animals of Hoboken, Scardaville stated that she knew a decent number of the strays and misplaced animals were rescued and adopted.

With a little bit of water damage in its roof, Hoboken Body Art went essentially unharmed. Still, the business felt the effects of losing power for eight days. Henry Skum from the shop estimated that as far as work expenses alone, the shop lost about $3,000, and is still lagging behind in making up for lost time.

Even months after the historic storm, many places are struggling to get back onto solid ground. As the weather gets nicer, why not take a stroll around Hoboken and support those who need it most? With just as much happening as neighboring NYC, avoid the tolls and traffic and help out one of the many communities still rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy.