Six weeks after Sandy hit New York, lower Manhattan law firms that remain out of their offices are hoping to return by next month but are confronting the possibility it could take much longer.
Harris Beach COO William Kedley said the firm's initial lease of temporary space at 1290 Avenue of the Americas expires in early January, giving lawyers a few weeks to decide if the firm can return to 100 Wall St. If there's not enough time, Kedley said the firm has the option to renew.
A big factor in the decision will be whether the telecommunications and data systems are up and running, Kedley said.
Lawyers at Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen and Loewy also remain in temporary space and are hoping to return to 7 Hanover Square by early January, but "we just don't have clarity," said Michael Patrick, a partner and executive committee member. "We're also frustrated about not having information" about the building's condition.
Sandy took out about 95 percent of Verizon's copper network downtown, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said last week. "They are now rebuilding better and smarter with fiber, but full restoration will take months."
Verizon's schedule "right now says that lower Manhattan is not going to be back up until May," Bloomberg said. "That is just not acceptable."
He added, "Those buildings in downtown that lost electricity and heat should be back up by the end of this month, but they can't be occupied unless we have telephone service."
Meanwhile, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, which had to take temporary space on Park Avenue, moved back on Nov. 27 to One New York Plaza. The firm said it has phone service.
"We all moved back into our offices…and everything went very smoothly. We are happy to be back in our space," said spokeswoman Patricia Lojo.
Several other downtown law offices were not so fortunate. At Harris Beach's location at 100 Wall St., member Steven Rice said, "my understanding is that the basement was substantially flooded with salt water and it caused significant damage" to electricity and the connections and wirings necessary for phone and computer service.