By Irene Plagianos | October 29, 2013 9:04am
LOWER MANHATTAN — On a bright afternoon recently, standing in the middle of her bustling South Street Seaport restaurant, Adriana Luque let out a deep sigh.
"It feels so good to be back," said Luque, a wide smile spreading across her face. "So good."
A year after 11 feet of Hurricane Sandy’s murky floodwaters overwhelmed popular Seaport eatery Barbarini, Luque and her husband Stefano Barbagallo — former co-owners of the beloved Italian spot — have finally opened their new restaurant, Barbalu, in the same 225 Front St. space.
"This year was hard, it was a struggle for us — for so many people,” Luque said. “But we love this place — we’re coming back and this neighborhood is coming back.”
Twelve months after Hurricane Sandy tore through Lower Manhattan, a host of shops and restaurants are still shuttered in the hard-hit South Street Seaport, but most of Downtown has slowly come back to life.
Most of the 19th-century buildings along the picturesque street, where Barbalu is now up and running, suffered intense damage. The entire electrical, heating and cooling systems of many of the buildings needed to be replaced, leaving residential tenants, along with the ground-floor shops and restaurants, displaced until the summer.
But the tide has turned. Barbalu, sushi restaurant Suteishi and pet grooming spa The Salty Paw recently reopened, and others — including Nelson Blue, Jack’s Stir Brew Coffee and bar Keg No. 229 — are slated to reopen in the next coming weeks.
The business owners who returned have sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars into repairing their shops — many without the benefit of flood insurance and while still wrangling for hurricane-related grants and loans from the government.
“It’s certainly cost us," said Peter O’Connell, who poured nearly $1 million into reopening Seaport favorite the Paris Cafe earlier this month, "but I think the Paris looks better than ever."