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S.L. not alone: Downtown closure plagues Big Apple, too

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Business was off 95 percent at Hotaling's News Agency on Wednesday - not surprising, considering that the store in midtown Manhattan, which sells hundreds of foreign and out-of-town newspapers, was reduced to a cart outside a freight door on 41st Street near the Avenue of the Americas. The store's real entrance, on 42nd Street, was closed, along with most of the streets around Times Square and the businesses that line them.

"It's pretty depressing," said store owner Arthur Hotaling. But, he added, he hoped his losses would be covered by insurance he carries that is supposed to pay for business disruptions.Exactly who was going to pay - and how - were the main questions among the hundreds of businesses that were closed by city officials after a construction elevator on the Conde Nast building collapsed on 43rd Street on Tuesday.

A few of these businesses were large. The Millennium Broadway at 44th Street said it was losing a quarter of a million dollars a day because almost half of its 627 rooms, the ones facing 43rd Street, were unusable. Many other businesses, however, were restaurants, shops and small concerns.

Among the most affected were the street vendors - with their coffee carts, hot dog stands, and falafel grills - who usually dot the area's street corners.

The office building at 1500 Broadway at 43rd Street contained 65 businesses, with about 1,000 employees, all of whom were barred from the building Wednesday, said Gretchen Dykstra, president of the Times Square Business Improvement District. Her group counted 10 restaurants that were closed in the district, as well as two theaters, a nightclub and the district's own sanitation facility.

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani strongly urged that money to help small businesses be provided immediately by the owner of the Conde Nast building, the Durst Organization, and its contractor, Tishman Construction.

"It would be very, very useful to a few of the businesses that particularly might be strapped for cash over the next three or four days if some reasonable sum of money were made available," the mayor said at a press conference Wednesday.

The fund should be used for businesses that did not have insurance or could not wait for the courts to decide liability for the collapse, the mayor said.

"Some of them may be in a critical position," he said. "If they can't derive some revenue in the next three to four days, then a lawsuit two years from now and a big claim two years from now may not be worth as much as it seems to be."