It’s been a few months since the Hudson surged into West Chelsea and the effects are still being felt. It likely won’t be the last time.

The FEMA Flood Map below, shows the 100-year flood level in orange (High Risk of 1% Actual Chance of Flooding) and the Moderate Risk area in gray (0.2% Actual Chance of Flood Hazaed and less than 1% Actual Chance of Flooding), in other words, one year ago the possibility seemed remote.


The Sandy Surge of 2012 was not altogether unanticipated. The red star is the location of Printed Matter.

That hardly helps with a five-foot high bathtub ring around your gallery walls. The longer term ramifications have been high reconstruction costs for the physical galleries, higher premiums on both art insurance and standard liability for the gallery and higher premiums for loss-of-business insurance. A $1,000,000 liability policy with a 12 week wait period and a $500,000 deductible can be as devastating as the flood when the build-out costs for the original gallery were only $300,000. Replacing sheet-rock, electrical systems and furniture (often not covered) can cost $30 to $60/SF, which on a 4,000 SF gallery translates to less than half of the deductible. That’s a big number to have to cover out of the blue.

These new expenses, added to generally rising rents can be overwhelming for a small to mid-sized gallery with gross annual sales revenues of $2,500,000 or less. And so it unfolds as many smaller galleries in West Chelsea are quitting ground floor spaces for the Zone B and C security of the Lower East Side. Worse, damages sustained by some, notably Printed Matter, a long-term gallery whose exhibition medium is one-of-a-kind artists’ works on paper and stored primarily in the basement on 10th Avenue and flooded to the cellar ceiling, is actively searching for a new space in the LES now. If you look closely at the flood map, their location is just outside the High Risk area, which means the actual flooding was a bit worse than predicted by 100-year statistics.

Speaking of ominous statistics, I heard recently that, since 1880, New York has over-flooded its sea walls only three times… the last two times were in the last two years.

The high and dry LES is like a sponge sopping up galleries from West Chelsea. Stay tuned…


Contact Earl if you want to know more.