"The neighborhood's been beaten," Weprin said. "You walk around here and it's like Chernobyl. At night, it's vacated."
The small businesses of the seaport were far less resilient than the neighboring skyscrapers that house many of lower Manhattan's large financial companies.
Some corporations were displaced for weeks after the storm, forced to relocate to temporary office space farther uptown while flood-damaged skyscrapers fixed their infrastructure and moved electrical systems to higher floors. Con Edison said 10 major buildings remained without power as of Feb. 13, most operating on emergency generators.
At 110 Wall St., a 27-story office tower that occupies a full block near the New York Stock Exchange, all leases were terminated because the building was so badly damaged by flooding. It remains empty while its management company comes up with a long-term plan for weathering future storms.
"How do we protect the lobby?" said William Rudin, the company's CEO. "How do we protect the retail spaces?"
Spotty phone and Internet service also hampered business activity after underground copper cables operated by Verizon, the area's largest network provider, were wrecked by flooding. By mid-February, Verizon said 10 percent of its customers still had little or no service.
It's unclear how many residents of lower Manhattan fled the neighborhood after Sandy. But 2 Gold St., a flood-damaged luxury residential skyscraper with nearly 1,000 residents, did not allow tenants to start moving back in until last week.
"These offices, these high-rise apartments, they need to be reoccupied," said Lee Holin, who owns Meade's Restaurant, which sits on the edge of the seaport a few blocks from Sandy-damaged skyscrapers on Water Street. "All of our customers who live there have not been here in a long time."