While law firms in lower Manhattan opened their doors Monday for the first time in a week, Hurricane Sandy’s effects on other firms, like Sullivan & Cromwell and Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, have forced lawyers and staff to keep the pace remotely and from alternate locations in Midtown.
Sullivan & Cromwell’s offices at 125 Broad St. on New York Harbor remain closed but chairman Joseph Shenker said the firm hopes to be fully operational within one or two weeks. In the meantime, lawyers and staff are working from Sullivan’s Midtown office at 535 Madison Ave., where the firm maintains one floor and has temporarily leased three additional floors, Shenker said Monday.
Shenker said about 40 people stayed at 125 Broad St. during the storm, including IT, security and clean-up workers. One office worker actually rescued a government transportation official who was almost swept away by the rising waters outside the building, Shenker said, adding the S&C employee “deserves a medal.”
The building experienced flooding and damage in the basement. Shenker said the water has been pumped out, generators are running and the firm is working to restore full power and elevator service, and a few broken windows have been repaired.
The law firm is in a unique position of having an ownership stake in its building—it has a 60 percent interest in 125 Broad Street Condominium Association, which owns the office tower.
“It’s actually been oddly a huge advantage because it allowed us to work in a very direct way to get the restoration efforts done,” Shenker said.
Cushman & Wakefield, the outside management company, has had staff on the ground 24 hours a day, he said. “Because we’re ownership we’ve been able to work with [Cushman] directly” and avoid getting caught up in any red tape. “We’ve managed to get on the fast track,” he said. The costs of the restoration should be covered fully by insurance, he added. “I sure have been paying enough premiums.”
The firm has a full back-up data center, and other firm offices provided support for administration and client matters, Shenker said.
“It’s been challenging,” Shenker said. “I am beyond amazed at the level of dedication of our lawyers and nonlegal staff in making sure we can continue to operate fully and serve our clients.”
He also applauded Midtown landlord Park Tower Realty.
Shenker, a resident of Long Island, said he worked from the Midtown office all last week and stayed at a nearby hotel. Power at his home was just restored, he added.
Equipment stationed outside One New York Plaza, where Fried Frank is located. Below, the concourse of One New York Plaza remained flooded on Oct. 30 nearly up to street level. Above: NYLJ/Rick Kopstein. Below: Reuters/Carlo Allegri.
Fried Frank’s headquarters at One New York Plaza also was not ready for operation Monday. Water flooded the underground plaza area and it could be closed for several weeks, according to a New York Times report.
“Fried Frank’s lower Manhattan office building is not accessible to us or any other tenants at this time. We are waiting for notification when our space will be available,” said firm chairwoman Valerie Ford Jacob in a statement.
She added that Fried Frank lawyers are working either remotely or from the firm’s Midtown office at 375 Park Ave. or other offices.
“All of the firm’s systems have been and continue to be operational,” the statement said.
Among the lower Manhattan law firms that were able to open for business Monday were Hughes Hubbard & Reed at One Battery Park Plaza; Carter Ledyard & Milburn at 2 Wall St.; and Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy at 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza.
Sara Randazzo of The American Lawyer contributed reporting.