NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wall Street’s satellite financial center, Jersey City, was one of the areas in the New York area worst hit by Hurricane Irene as flood waters lapped through its streets, inundating the basements of many homes.
Goldman Sachs and other major banks and trading houses have big operations - some for back office work, others with sizable trading floors - in the downtown waterfront area, just across the Hudson River from Lower Manhattan.
Areas housing offices on what appears to be higher ground fared much better than the lower lying residential districts, which suffered serious flooding early Sunday morning.
Many residents in low-lying downtown areas of the city had been ordered to evacuate on Saturday night but some declined to. Emergency evacuation centers in Jersey City’s public schools filled up.
Much of the flooding, at least in the downtown area of a city whose racially diverse population includes a large number of urban professionals but also has significant pockets of poverty, had receded by the middle of the afternoon. The clean up, though, looks certain to last for weeks.
A Knight Capital Group employee, in shorts and T-shirt, dropped by his office Sunday afternoon to “check his area.” He declined to give his name but said he lived close by.
Knight Capital’s Jersey City offices house one of the biggest trading floors in the United States with space for up to 400 traders.
A security guard who had been manning the desk all night said that there had been no flooding in the building just rain water seeping under the revolving doors despite the sand bags.
“All I know is that it was stormy and wet,” he said. He was not authorized to give his name.
Knight, which trades around 16 percent of New York Stock Exchange-listed shares, making it a market leader, said it would be fully operational come Monday.
That was the same for Goldman Sachs which appeared not to have needed the carefully stacked sandbags around its entrances even though its offices are right on the waterfront.
Goldman’s Jersey City office, despite being a towering landmark dwarfing most of the downtown, is known to be a sparsely populated building of people on the fringe of trading & other operations.
“We’ll be open for business tomorrow, as you’d imagine,” said spokesman Stephen Cohen. “People who need to work remotely, that’s fine.”
Many parts of Jersey City, made famous by the Sopranos, a TV series about New Jersey’s Italian mobsters, were thigh deep in water on Sunday morning after a night of lashing wind and rain. Hoboken, not far to the north and the birthplace of singer Frank Sinatra, had also been subject of an evacuation order and also got hit by some serious flooding.
John Burns, a 50-year-old clerk from Jersey City and his 45-year-old brother Kevin, who is currently unemployed, describe the desperate and futile struggle they fought in the early hours of the morning as flood waters inundated their basement apartment.
“It’s a disaster, it’s up over the couch and bed,” said Kevin. “We had a wet-dry vac down there that could pull the water out for about half an hour then we were inundated.”
“I had a lot of books, I tried to get them up to top shelves, the water came in so swiftly at 5:30 this morning that many of them I couldn’t save ... Some books were destroyed and some clothes,” said John.
They have no insurance and are reliant on the goodwill of an upstairs neighbor. They plan to relocate to their parents’ house about 12 miles away.
Additional reporting by Ryan Vlastelica and Lauren Tara LaCapra, editing by Martin Howell