Yesterday, a water main broke on Houston Street, right in front of NYC institution Katz's Delicatessen, flooding the streets and businesses. The street then collapsed, creating a sinkhole. However, the deli remained open, which Katz's owner Jake Dell says it's a credit to his "amazing" staff and the hard work of city agencies.
Dell, third generation owner of the deli, said, "You wake up and you don't expect" that your business's basement will be seriously flooded. Initially, there was a foot and a half of water, but it turned into three feet of mud. The water "hit everything" but they stayed open because "People always need to eat."
The 6,000 square feet basement stored mostly dry goods—"everything you need to run a business, basically," Dell said—but no pastrami was harmed, thank goodness. He heard the main, installed in 1959, break just before 11 a.m. and it was a "gush" of water.
Dell and his staff immediately went to the basement to move items on shelves near the floor to higher ground. But Dell was only expecting six inches of water—not the mess. "It looks like a war zone," he said. "Any crack you didn't think was there had water coming out. It was unlike anything I've ever seen." Dell added that during Hurricane Sandy, they lost power but there was only minor flooding (they stayed open during that, too).
The Houston street sidewalk was flooded yesterday, and Dell was relieved that it's dry and walkable today. A restoration crew has been working since last night to remove mud from the basement, and he hopes it'll be clean by tomorrow and it can dry out over the weekend, with construction next week.
Dell was grateful to all the city agencies who were on the scene yesterday and today, "They all came together... The Small Business Services and Office of Emergency Management are the only reason why we're open." Other businesses weren't as fortunate: The Lobster Joint, which is next to Katz's on Houston, had much equipment and seafood damaged.
"My job is to maintain tradition," Dell reflected. "We're part of the community, the Lower East Side, and we want to be here for them... I'm a little emotional at the response we've gotten from everyone. It's been amazing."