Shuttered Lower Manhattan offices still thwarted by disconnected phones

From left: Steven Spinola and Lower Manhattan
From left: Steven Spinola and Lower Manhattan

Between 15 to 18 million square feet of Lower Manhattan commercial space remains closed five weeks after Hurricane Sandy, the New York Times reported, but there’s an added complication: phones are still disconnected.

Moreover, they can’t be repaired quickly. Under current repair timelines, Verizon won’t finish their work until May, which Mayor Bloomberg said on Tuesday during a speech was “just not acceptable.” Real Estate Board of New York President Steven Spinola said that if Verizon can get service back soon, then 95 to 98 percent of the still vacant offices can be back up and running by the beginning of next year, but that timetable depends entirely on Verizon’s repair work.

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Verizon reports that 95 percent of its Lower Manhattan network that runs on copper wires was destroyed after a prolonged saltwater and diesel bath. Though the fiber optic cable network was less damaged, it was not unscathed, and all of the equipment that allows the fiber optic network to run will need to be replaced — just not the cables themselves. The older, copper system will be entirely replaced by fiber optics, because it does not make sense to replace the outmoded copper system, Verizon representatives told the Times.

Chris Levendos, executive director for national operations at Verizon, told the New York Times that Verizon is doing 20 years worth of work in just a few months and that brand new system probably won’t be finished by Jan. 1. “I need 20 times the amount of equipment that I would normally have used on an annual basis,” Levendos said.

Tenants could grow impatient — the Times said that though the specified time varies, if tenants don’t have access to their office spaces for a set period of time, they are usually freed from their lease. [NYT]Zachary Kussin