Jan. 1, 2013 By Bill Parry
The Waterfront Crab House (2-03 Borden Ave.), the landmark restaurant that was nearly wiped out by a six foot storm surge during Hurricane Sandy, is planning to reopen in February.
Most held little hope that the iconic restaurant, known for its seafood and sports memorabilia, would ever reopen. However, after 2 months work, a fortune in personal savings and the grit of its well-known owner it is going to be back.
“I’m pushing for Valentine’s Day [reopening],” said owner Tony Mazzarella, “and I’d love to do a Crab House sweetheart deal.”
Mazzarella and his son narrowly escaped drowning in the flood waters that ravaged this low lying section of Hunters Point during the storm. The flood buckled the main floor, swamped the basement and destroyed all the kitchen equipment.
”We had to build everything brand new from top to bottom,” said Mazzarella.
In the aftermath, local politicians deemed the famed restaurant a total loss. At the time, Mazzarella adamantly declared, “Tell them the Crab House got wet, but we didn’t drown.”
Mazzarella, who was working on the restaurant on New Year’s Eve, was not complimentary of government efforts on behalf of his business.
“The politicians left us for dead, but what do they know. They came for the photo ops and paid us lip service.”
The owner also dismissed the efforts of FEMA, saying that he is only eligible for about $25,000 in compensation, a paltry amount in comparison to the actual costs of rebuilding the restaurant from top to bottom.
Mazzarella singled out Joe Conley, the Chairman of Community Board 2, for praise. “He’s the only one that’s been with us from the start; he’s deserving of a lot of credit.”
Conley’s office was closed for the holiday, so he wasn’t available for comment.
The Crab House finally got the lights back on two weeks ago, but it’s still without phone service. The new floor was finished a week ago, and work has just begun on the long bar.
“Next up is all the reupholstering,” said Mazzerella.
The three dozen workers who make up the Crab House staff have stayed on and helped in the rebuilding effort in alternate weeks. “All my porters and busboys and everyone else, they’re like family to me now,” Mazzarella said.
This is the second time Mazzarella has had to rebuild during the 37 years that he’s owned the restaurant.
A serious fire shut him down four years ago.
“This is a strong old building: it’s over 120 years old,” he said. The building was once Miller’s Hotel, a gathering place for political types. Theodore Roosevelt, Grover Cleveland and LIC mayor “Battle Ax” Gleason held court at the hotel.
Mazzarella, a former boxer, draws strength from neighbors and customers who have paid visits since the storm two months ago. “You wouldn’t believe how
many people have stopped by to wish us well,” said Mazzarella with tears welling in his eyes. “It was really heartwarming and it made me want to keep going.”