By Orlando Lee Rodriguez
The Jacob Javits Center is limping along with handouts from insurers while relief funds from federal and state agencies have yet to materialize.
After sustaining extensive damage from floodwaters during Hurricane Sandy, the board of the directors for the Convention Center warned that its future could be compromised if the situation is allowed to drag on much longer.
“The problem is that if the flood insurance money is spent, we will have no coverage until next year,” said Edward B. MacDonald, chief financial officer of the New York Convention Center Operating Corporation. “We are not the only ones with a claim from Sandy, the insurance companies are getting clobbered.”
The board said the city’s largest available space for trade shows and industry expos has been forced to rely on fiscal advances from insurance companies to pay the bills.
The NYCCOC, which is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Javits Center has $25 million of flood insurance but has only received $9.4 million. No direct help from the federal government has been forthcoming.
“I went through the application process for FEMA,” MacDonald said at the board’s monthly meeting. “They referred us to the Small Business Administration for a loan. I am hoping that some of the federal money coming to New York State will be able to wiggle in here.”
Last week, President Barack Obama signed a $50.5 billion emergency package for victims of the hurricane, including business owners. However, no-one on the board was exactly sure just when that money would arrive.
Since the storm, the Javits Center has been forced to operate with 28,000 s/f less space than normal. Renovation costs for capital improvements already underway, plus rehabilitating storm damaged areas, have placed the convention center in $866,000 in the red.
Nearly six feet of water from the Hudson River entered the Javits Center on October 29 when the so-called “super stormˮ slammed into the New York area. Video shown at the public meeting revealed salt water going down every escalator and elevator shaft.
Some of that water, officials said, was contaminated with oil, causing massive damage to equipment. In total, 10 elevators and 10 escalators were destroyed. All areas affected had to be sanitized and walls and floors replaced.
Plans for the future include replacing metal gates with flood resistant doors. Board members reported that the flood doors alone would cost $650,000.
All of the infrastructure destruction forced the cancellation of two events and caused four others to be rescheduled. Insurance will not cover losses connected to rescheduled events, only canceled ones.
But as much revenue as the Javits Center has lost since the storm, board members say it could have been much worse should they not have been as prepared.
“Ken Sanchez, our building manager, came from Puerto Rico and had a lot of experience with hurricanes,” said Alan Steel, president and chief executive officer of NYCCOC.
“As water was rising he was on the phone saying what he needed. He really knew what he was doing. Because of him we were able to hit the ground running with our rehab efforts.”