Tags: nyc | economy | blizzard | miscue | business

NYC Economy: Blizzard Miscue Put $200M Hit on Businesses

Image: NYC Economy: Blizzard Miscue Put $200M Hit on Businesses
A couple walks across the Brooklyn Bridge after a snowstorm on January 27, 2015 in New York City. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

By    |   Wednesday, 28 Jan 2015 06:11 AM

New York City took a $200 million hit from the bungled shutdown of its transit system as a not-so-historic blizzard approached, but a preliminary estimate from one financial firm says the loss in economic activity won't be crippling.

The Associated Press reported Moody's Analytics economist Adam Kamins as saying that consumers who would have otherwise bought cars or made other major purchases will likely do so a day or two later. And he noted that many employees forced to stay home Tuesday were able to telecommute.

"For example, a holiday where people aren't working would have a greater impact on the economic output than this storm," Kamins said.

Evan Gold, senior vice president for Planalytics, a firm that advises companies on weather issues, estimated the economic losses for the total Northeast, including New York, Philadelphia and Boston, at $500 million.

"Now that does sound like a lot of money, but when you think about last year, where we had a polar vortex, several weeks of that, more population centers impacted as well as above-normal snowfall, last year's overall economic impact is pegged at anywhere from $15 billion to $50 billion," he said. "So in comparison, this is actually a relatively small event."

In New York, the biggest impact was on small businesses and hourly workers who rely on tips, such as taxi drivers and restaurant workers.

For them, the lost work time stung. Lenice Ferguson, a baker at Insomnia Cookies said the shop is usually open until about 3 a.m. making deliveries. The bakery closed at about 10 p.m. Monday.

"It's a big deal, because I only work three nights out of the week," the 26-year-old said. "My check is going to be short, and I have bills that I have to pay."

Subways, rail lines, bridges and tunnels were all closed Monday night. Residents were told to stay off the streets after 11 p.m. or face fines. Transportation reopened Tuesday morning after it was clear the storm was a bust in New York City, with most areas getting about 8 inches instead of the predicted 2 feet.

Barber Fausto Cabrera opened for business Tuesday morning but wasn't expecting many customers.

His Upper West Side neighborhood was deserted the morning after city officials shut down public transportation and told people to keep off the roads. His store, Franklin's Barber Shop, had closed early Monday after a light day – only 12 haircuts – and he couldn't afford to stay closed again.

"There was nobody here yesterday and today, just look," he said, pointing to six empty barber chairs. "All I can do is wait."

Mayor Bill de Blasio said economic loss was much less than it would have been had the storm hit in full force, and that taking precautions helped the city get back online faster.

He said city officials learned from the December 2010 storm when the city was paralyzed by 2 feet of snow. Roads went unplowed for days, ambulances got stuck and trash piled up in the wake of the snow. The blizzard cost the city more than $70 million, but the economic impact to retailers was considerably more.

"I will always err on the side of safety and caution," de Blasio said Tuesday. "We had consistently been getting reports talking about two feet or more of snow. To me it was a no-brainer, we had to take precautions to keep people safe. You can't be a Monday morning quarterback on something like the weather."

Shaon Chowdhury, a manager of Arthur Cab Leasing Corp., in Queens, said he didn't have a problem with the city's actions even though he lost about $60,000 in revenue and expenses.

"If they did get 28 inches it would be a problem, so shutting down is a good idea," he said. "What happens if we did get 28 inches? It would have been hell."

New York City's 24,000 restaurants probably lost millions in revenue in total, said Chris Hickey, regional director of New York City for the New York State Restaurant Association. A lot of people canceled reservations on Monday night, and many restaurants closed early because of travel bans. Plus, parties and business events were canceled or postponed, which also impacts catering vendors and delivery drivers.

For the first time in the decade since it first opened a block north of Times Square, the TSQ brasserie deserted at mid-afternoon Monday. Business was down about 70 percent.

"Never in my life was it like this – empty," said manager Mohi Hassan.

At least $10,000 was lost at the Route 66 Grill, a popular eatery on Manhattan's West Side, said manager Tim Hadley.

"It's ridiculous, we lost our evening trade because most of the staff had to be sent home because we weren't particularly clear when the subway was being shut down," Hadley said. "We were told it was a blizzard, then it wasn't a blizzard."

Elliott McNair, the bartender at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. overlooking Times Square, said that while the restaurant closed early on Monday, business was up Tuesday.

"We got more people who couldn't leave New York — an international crowd — plus people who came in out of curiosity. They wanted to see how Manhattan looked with the snow."

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New York City took a $200 million hit from the bungled shutdown of its transit system as a not-so-historic blizzard approached, but a preliminary estimate from one financial firm says the loss in economic activity won't be crippling.
nyc, economy, blizzard, miscue, business
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2015-11-28
Wednesday, 28 Jan 2015 06:11 AM
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