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Business at Ground Zero

Marketplace Staff Sep 11, 2006

Business at Ground Zero

Marketplace Staff Sep 11, 2006


SCOTT JAGOW: The World Trade Center was a beacon in the financial capital of the world and small businesses near the towers thrived because of it. But many of those shops struggle now, if they’ve even survived the last five years. Judy Martin shares some of their stories.

JUDY MARTIN: These are the sounds of O’haras Irish Pub only six months after the terror attacks. It’s just a block from ground zero. A handful of patrons sat at the bar. Pat Rogers was the owner back then. He was heartbroken.

PAT ROGERS: “The irony of it is not alone just losing business but losing very, very, close friends that we’ve known for years. We’re not going to make a lot of money, but we’ll get by.”

Rogers retired, but nearly five years later O’Haras is still alive. There’s a bustling crowd during happy hour. Bar stools are filled with people noshing and drinking.

Michael Keane now owns the place. He says business is still down 30 percent from before the attacks. But says his loyal customers are the beating heart of his business.

MICHAEL KEANE: “The regulars that we had before came back. Tthey came back and supported us. Without them, we would have never made it.”

Keane hopes to break even this year. Ironically, he says tourists to Ground Zero also pump the veins of commerce, but the gaping hole left by the towers is just part of the 16-acre wound in lower Manhattan.

In the cavernous space are the remains of other buildings and torn up streets being renovated to prepare for rebuilding.

NICOLE LARUSSO:“It’s sort of like watching open heart surgery.”

That’s Nicole LaRusso of the Alliance for Downtown New York. The group’s job is to boost business in the financial district.

LARUSSO: “I mean it’s just amazing to see a street opened up and see all the infrastructure kind of laying out in the open. I think it’s disruptive and a little bit disorienting, but at the same time it’s so encouraging.”

But construction has shut down side streets and blocked the flow of customers to many small businesses, some closed by eminent domain.

The Alliance has tried to help them relocate, and there’s signage to signal the business beyond the scaffolding. But all won’t live through the so-called surgery, says Brian Moran, owner of Moran’s Family Restaurant.

Moran the first five years after the attacks have been tough, let alone the next five which will ring with sounds, sites and smells of construction. Moran’s is in shadow of the former twin towers, a few blocks away. Most tourists don’t find him there. He’s especially disheartened by having to pay real estate taxes. No tax relief was offered.

BRIAN MORAN:“You know we have been putting up with streets being torn up and water lines being replaced and gas lines and then fiber optic cables and lost phone service and the water has been shut down so personally I thought it would be a nice gesture. “

Moran sold his Long Island home, and reduced his staff just to stay open

Three blocks away, life is different at the Vince Smith Salon in Battery Park City. It wasn’t hit as hard, the salon was in the recovery room rather quickly. Business is brisk today.

Vince Smith is giving a customer a trim. He says a solid residential base, extended hours and a new price structure kept him open. 36 friends and clients were killed, so it was both painful, and healing to stay open.

VINCE SMITH:“Even though we just experienced the greatest tragedy in American history people wanted to get back to normal somehow and their hair and the way they looked and felt was important and it was a way to start.”

Restaurateur Brian Moran is still waiting for that new start. He tap that same determination and resilience that’s gotten him this far.

MORAN: “Most of my friends who had businesses here have left. What you do is you either adapt, flee, or die.”

In New York City, I’m Judy Martin for Marketplace.

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