October 25, 2021

Case Study: Wiped Out by Sandy, an Owner Sizes Up the Risk in Starting Over

THE CHALLENGE Deciding whether Mr. Lucci, 60, should put his house up as collateral to get a Small Business Administration loan in an attempt to revive his business, which is based in Stapleton, on Staten Island, half a block from the waterfront. Last October, Hurricane Sandy’s surge swamped the company’s 6,000-square-foot lot and garage, submerging 57 cars in salt water. (Three vehicles that were on garage lifts avoided damage.) Lost were an ambulance worth $20,000, taxi cabs that cost more than $5,000 and a police crime scene unit vehicle valued at more than $16,000.

“I have mechanics, they all say they’re totally junk,” Mr. Lucci said. “It took five hours to destroy the business.”

After the storm, he spent weeks trying to start cars and ripping out rotting plaster board from his office. The $25,000 tow truck starts but keeps slipping out of gear. He figures it will cost $400,000 to replace the cars and refurbish the office, the shop and the equipment. Unfortunately, the cars were insured only for liability — adequate, he thought, for transporting cars from Point A to Point B. (Once they are on a movie set, his vehicles are insured by the production.)

THE BACKGROUND Mr. Lucci began supplying cars to the movie industry in 1975 at age 24. Lucci Auto Props, a business he owned with his brother, was based in Red Hook, Brooklyn. After the two had a falling out, Mr. Lucci said, he walked away from the company and opened a shop that sold exotic cars. In the late ’80s, he took a sales job with a luxury carmaker.

But he never lost interest in the movie business. In 1993, he opened Automobile Film Club, renting a lot from the city’s Economic Development Corporation. Mr. Lucci said he worked hard to get production companies the exact vehicles they wanted and stayed on set to make sure everything worked.

Over time, his fleet grew to 350 cars and 14 full-time employees, mostly secretaries and mechanics. The company survived the long drought after 9/11, when the mayor’s office stopped issuing film permits. Mr. Lucci said a $45,000 S.B.A. loan helped him get by and has been paid back. In 2008, his best year, the business grossed $1.8 million.

The following year, the city ended the company’s lease. Unable to find a large, affordable parcel for his fleet, Mr. Lucci downsized, buying one 10,000-square-foot lot and renting another. He sold hundreds of cars. The payroll dwindled to him and his wife.

During Hurricane Irene in 2011, Mr. Lucci said 30 of his cars were damaged. Because he was carrying only liability insurance on his vehicles, he could not claim damages. The S.B.A. offered him a $6,000 loan at 4 percent interest. He thought the amount was too small, so he turned it down. The following year, he said, was a struggle.

When Hurricane Sandy hit, Mr. Lucci’s vehicles were still insured for liability only. His office and garage were insured, as was $30,000 in equipment. But, like many business owners, he carried no protection against floodwaters or business interruption. After the storm, Mr. Lucci said, he received $5,800 for wind damage and nothing for what was destroyed by water.

THE OPTIONS Mr. Lucci has concluded he has two options. He can close the business for good, or he can borrow a lot of money and try to make another go of it.

New York City has been offering emergency loans to small businesses of up to $25,000, interest-free for the first six months and 1 percent interest for the 24 months after that. The city approved Mr. Lucci for such a loan, but he said it would barely make a dent. “I couldn’t even fix my office,” he said.

A local office of the Small Business Administration has urged him to apply for a fixed-rate disaster loan. The agency has said businesses can obtain as much as $2 million at 4 percent interest for up to 30 years. One drawback? The S.B.A. told him he would be required to have flood insurance, and Mr. Lucci fears that could cost him up to $25,000 a year.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/07/business/smallbusiness/wiped-out-by-sandy-an-owner-sizes-up-the-risk-in-starting-over.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder: A Jewish Date, Then a Movie

Jewish Film Club “The Human Resources Manager” is the Jewish Film-of-the-Month Club’s first film selection.

LOS ANGELES — JDate, the Web-based dating service, has been helping singles “find friendship, romance and lifelong partners within the Jewish faith.” It can also hook you up with a movie.

On Monday, Film Movement is announcing what it calls North America’s first Jewish Film-of-the-Month Club, with JDate as its sponsor. The service plans to send a new, Jewish-themed feature film on DVD and via Internet streaming to subscribers once every two months — and then monthly, when things get swinging — for an annual subscription rate of $108, or $68 for six months and $3.25 in shipping and handling costs per disc.

The first picture on tap is “The Human Resources Manager,” a somewhat comic character study that was Israel’s submission for the best foreign language film Oscar this year. After that comes “Protektor,” a Czech film about a journalist who tries to safeguard his Jewish wife by working for a radio station that broadcasts Nazi propaganda.

It seems difficult to believe that the large, film-savvy Jewish population of the United States and Canada has not had a coast-to-coast film club of this sort. But Adley Gartenstein, the president of Film Movement, insists it is so.

“The closest thing that exists to us, is us,” said Mr. Gartenstein, who spoke of both the new club, and Film Movement’s existing DVD of the Month Club.

Mr. Gartenstein is one of many film executives who contend that the future of home viewing will depend on having curators to sort through the thousands of feature-length films that are made annually.

Speaking by telephone last week, Mr. Gartenstein said his company had long intended to open niche clubs that might offer Spanish-language, black-themed or children’s films. The Jewish club came first, he said, partly because film gatherings like the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival (“Our films aren’t just selected, they’re chosen”) provide a potential audience and a ready pipeline to movies. He estimated that 500,000 people attended Jewish film festivals annually in the United States.

Goals are relatively modest: Mr. Gartenstein said he would like to see the new club grow to 25,000 members within three years. Some of the proceeds, he said, will go to Chai Lifeline, an organization that helps the families of children with serious illness.

As for what constitutes a Jewish-themed film, Mr. Gartenstein’s standard is not strict. “Central to the story will be one or more Jewish characters,” he said.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=fd2332a825c47eab5ab232a6b2320c2f