Surf Avenue businesses: Sandy crippled us

Surf Avenue businesses: Sandy crippled us
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Surf Avenue merchants say Hurricane Sandy flooded their stores and damaged supplies — and at least one Coney Island merchant is considering abandoning his beloved People’s Playground forever.

Businesses owners along the amusement district’s main drag said flood waters seeped both under their doors and up from their sewers when Sandy hit last Monday night.

Merchants say they lost thousands of dollars in equipment and merchandise — and wonder if they’ll ever recover.

“The place is an awful wreck,” said bar owner John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia, who reopened his beloved watering hole on Surf Avenue near Stillwell Avenue in February after the city kicked him out of his longtime Boardwalk location in 2011. After just a few months of operation, flood waters destroyed the bar’s refrigerators, kitchen, taps, and interior. “Right now I can’t answer the question if we’ll be back.”

Other merchants were stunned by how much damage Sandy wrought on their businesses — but promise to reopen.

“When the water was a foot high, I thought it couldn’t get any worse. When it was two-feet high, I thought it couldn’t get any worse. Sure enough, it got to four-feet high,” said Anthony Russo, co-owner of the 105-year-old Gargiulo’s Restaurant on W. 15th Street near Mermaid Avenue. Flooding destroyed the eatery’s supplies, wine cellar, and refrigeration units, said Russo, who hasn’t gotten an assessment of all the damages, but is talking to insurance adjusters and representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“We’ve had every kind of specialist you could imagine in here,” said Russo, who plans to have the restaurant open for parties by Nov. 17. “As much damage as salt water can do, you can always repair it.”

Workers at Lago Furniture — a Surf Avenue fixture for more than 30 years — agree, although rebuilding will be a costly endeavor.

“We’re going to try to revive the business here, but we don’t have enough funds,” said Lago Furniture president Liana Stevens, who estimates her business sustained $250,000 in damages. “Little by little, we’re going to try to come back.”