Three months after Hurricane Sandy destroyed the infrastructure of many offices in lower Manhattan, displaced law firms and legal agencies are trickling back downtown. High on the agenda for some firms will be attempting to recover business contingency and relocation expenses.
Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, however, is still unsure when it can move back to 7 Hanover Square. The firm is waiting for the building's main tenant, Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America, to return, said Michael Patrick, Fragomen partner and executive committee member.
"Guardian continues to believe that the building is not sufficiently functional and thus usable and we are continuing to follow their lead," said Patrick, who cited electrical issues as a concern.
Others, however, have moved back into 7 Hanover Square. New York Legal Assistance Group, which occupies the 18th floor, returned on Jan. 9.
"Power has been restored through a generator for our floor and a few others," said Merritt Birnbaum, director of development.
"We have Verizon phone service, we have our Internet providers. We have electricity," said NYLAG president Yisroel Schulman. "Except for the fact that the building is a little empty, it's basically the same" as before the storm.
The nonprofit legal services provider had staff temporarily based at 11 law firms and the UJA-Federation of New York, all of whom donated office space.
NYLAG had to rebuild its entire server to run its operations, Birnbaum said, and incurred about $75,000 in IT and moving equipment expenses. That amount is not covered by insurance, but the group has received contributions and support to help cover the cost, she said.
"We're still looking for more contributions," she added.
Lawyers and staff of the Legal Aid Society returned on Jan. 15 to their headquarters at 199 Water St., but the agency said last week its land-line phones were not working. The group is relying on cell phone service and land-lines in other locations, including a switchboard in the Bronx office, said attorney-in-chief Steven Banks.