Battered Irvington Waterfront Rebuilds After Sandy

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Crews work Tuesday to prepare the Chutney Masala Bistro in Irvington for its first day back in business after Hurricane Sandy. Photo Credit: Meredith Shamburger

IRVINGTON, N.Y. – MP Taverna, chef Michael Psilakis's new Irvington restaurant, was just gathering momentum when Hurricane Sandy hit and flooded the building with 4 feet of water. Now it is struggling to get back to normal.

“To just get cut at the knees like that is devastating,” Psilakis said. “It not only costs us money in lost revenue, it also cost us momentum. How do you start up again? How do you start from nothing and move forward?”

Three Irvington restaurants near the Hudson River waterfront are reopening after Hurricane Sandy sent 4 feet of water crashing over a retaining wall and into the buildings. The late October storm shut down Red Hat on the River, MP Taverna and the Chutney Masala Bistro on Bridge Street for more than six weeks.

Restaurant owners and staff have been working for weeks to repair the extensive damage. Owners say they have had to overhaul the ground floors, tear out moldy walls, replace entire kitchens and find a way to pay staff while no money was coming in.

“It's been a terrible nightmare to go through,” said Mary Beth Dooley, who owns Red Hat on the River, which plans to open on Dec. 20. “The margins we work on are very slim, and we employ a lot of people, so that was a huge part of the nightmare. We tried to use as many people as we could during the cleanup and restoration.”

MP Taverna officially opened Monday. Everything in the restaurant below the 4-foot mark had to replaced, including expensive kitchen and bar equipment, Psilakis said. He estimates the damage totaled hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Chutney Masala Bistro planned to open Tuesday. Crews were working throughout Monday to get the Indian restaurant ready for the launch.

Cleaning up after Sandy is like starting off as a new restaurant, said Navjot Arora, owner of Chutney Masala. Arora lost floors, walls and everything electrical. The building didn't have electricity or gas until a few weeks ago.

“It's been nerve-wracking, to say the least,” he said.

For owners, community support has played a key role in helping them steer through the storm. All three restaurants have been communicating via email and Facebook, updating restaurant fans with the cleanup process and opening dates. Patrons have been sending messages of support and have even dropped off lasagnas at her house, Dooley said.

“It's been overwhelming,” she said. “It's made a very big difference getting through it because we've gotten a tremendous amount of moral support from patrons and neighbors and even police and fire and elected officials.”

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