Hurricane Sandy vs. Argosy Book Store

As I mentioned last week on Twitter, my family’s book store suffered some damage during the storm, but get this — we didn’t know about it for several days. That’s because a whole bunch of bricks had fallen off a nearby building, and the street where the store is located (East 59th between Park and Lexington Avenues) was closed. Here’s what the street looked like when it finally reopened:

Here’s a photo of our store (which is called Argosy) from across the street:

Check out the missing bricks from the nearby building . . .

. . . or should I say THE ADJACENT BUILDING. Most of the bricks had fallen onto East 59th Street. Unfortunately there were a few that landed on our roof and did this:

Here’s a closer look:

In case you can’t tell, the photo above shows a (destroyed) air conditioning unit and a gaping hole in the roof. How did a few lousy bricks cause such damage, you ask? Look at the height from which they fell:

Our building is six floors. The bricks had fallen from the 33rd floor. So yeah.

Because of the hole in the roof, our autograph department on the top floor had lots of water damage. Take a look at the carpet in the following photo:

Those red arrows indicate the water line. Nearly everything past that point that had been touching the floor was damaged/ruined, along with many other items in other areas. Here are a few examples, starting with a Babe Ruth autograph:

Other than the wonky reflection on the glass, it looks okay, right?

Well, look at the back of the frame:

More than 100 framed items got soaked. We’re in the process of taking apart the frames (which will have to be thrown out) to see if the autographs themselves can be salvaged.

If you think the Babe Ruth damage is bad, check out these Thomas Jefferson documents:

These are original “Acts of Congress” that Jefferson signed when he was the Secretary of State. We’re sending them to a professional restorer who *might* be able to bleach (and then freeze?) the paper with special chemicals to remove the staining.

I’m aware that in the grand scheme of things, this is not a catastrophe. Dozens of New Yorkers lost their lives in this storm, and thousands more lost their homes. Our store is still in business, and our damage will be covered by insurance, so we’re going to be okay. It still sucks, though, but I want to acknowledge all the folks out there who have it MUCH worse. That said, I might as well continue sharing photos with you.

In addition to the framed autographs that got wet, there were entire shelves of books that got ruined. Here’s a fancy leather binding that we’re gonna have to throw out . . .

. . . and here’s a much-less-fancy book signed by Dave Winfield that I’d recently cataloged:

Did you notice the blue background on the cover of the dust wrapper? That’s not supposed to be there. Here’s the inside of the book . . .

. . . and here’s the page that he signed:

That book was priced $40 — a bargain for a Hall of Famer! Obviously that’s not a huge financial loss, but it’s sad to see all this stuff ruined and to know that all the time we spent acquiring it and cataloging it was wasted.

Although I photographed every damaged book (for insurance purposes), I’m not going to share them all here. It would take all day, but I’ll show you a few more, like this . . .

. . . and this . . .

. . . and this:

We threw out an entire barrel of books . . .

. . . and by the end of the day, our roof looked like this:

In case you’re wondering, the view above is facing west on 59th Street. A five-minute walk would get you to the southeast corner of Central Park; ten minutes more and you’d be at Columbus Circle. We’re in a great spot (except when hurricanes cause bricks to fall on us).

The following day, we hired someone to cut up and remove the wet portion of the carpet:

It was a tough job because there were two soaking layers that had to be removed — the gray portion that’s coming off in the photo above, along with the brown layer underneath that you see here:

While the carpet guy was working, I discovered another area of damaged frames that we had somehow missed the day before. (There’s LOTS of stuff, okay? And our minds were all over the place.) Check out the soaked portion of the cardboard dividers in the following photo:

One of the pieces down there was a signed letter by John Glenn on NASA letterhead . . .

. . . and as you can see, it was covered in water droplets.

A couple hours later, we had loaded a cart with damaged framed autographs:

By the end of the day, the carpet was removed . . .

. . . and the roof had been patched (by some workmen from the other building):

That’s where things stand, and there’s a lot more work to be done. The plexiglass dividers and book shelves are going to have to be removed (in order to get the wet carpet out from under). Everything is going to have to be taken off the walls (which will have to be stripped and dried and patched back up). We’re taking countless photos and updating a master list of all the damaged items — and this is just on the top floor. The First Editions department on the 5th floor also suffered extensive damage. And THIS, boys and girls, is what I’ll be working on this winter. How long ’til Opening Day?


  1. Linda

    Zack, it is sad your family bookstore suffered this damage. The Argosy is on my “must do” list the next trip to NYC!

  2. pacmedia

    Sorry to hear about the water damage Zack. I am a commercial property manager and have dealt with numerous floods and post fire water damage events over the years, and they are always tedious and frustrating. Insurance coverage claims are never any easy process to deal with either. As you mentioned though it could have been worse and you can carry on. Good luck. Out of curiosity , what does your shop price a Babe Ruth autograph at? I have always wanted a Ruth but fear it will be out of my range for a long time. Chris

  3. t

    what would a baseball dropped from that bldg do to your roof? you should have been at your bldg holding down the fort ,did you ever get a ball from pasqual perez.?THAT WAS SAD. tc


    One of our family’s houses was destroyed in Miami during Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Growing up in Florida, I can’t even remember the total number of hurricanes I’ve been through. I’ve seen plenty of damage and devastation in my lifetime. Overall, your damage isn’t that bad. It’s just the items themselves were expensive. I’m sure you have good insurance and all will be well. I found the media coverage of this hurricane absolutely obnoxious. Way too much overreaction. It was kind of like a metaphor of media coverage of MLB. Too many media people seem to think the center of the universe is NYC. You will all be just fine.

  5. Nettie

    Zack, I’m so glad to hear from you. I was worried about you and your family. So sorry to hear about the damage to the book store. I’m just glad you and your mom are safe!! Nettie

  6. kslo69

    Glad to hear you and family are safe and well! Looks like most of the damage was a direct result of the falling bricks? Real shame. Argosy seems like the kind of place one could spend hours exploring and still only scratch the surface. Should make the off-season go quickly for you.

  7. Zack Hample

    Please do come visit.

    That Babe Ruth item is $10,000. We also have a book that he signed for $6,000.

    Nope, no ball from Pascual Perez. Very sad indeed.

    We’ll be fine, but this storm WAS pretty bad. Temperatures are now hovering around freezing, and there are STILL thousands of people without power.

    Thanks. We’re still here and chuggin’ along.

    You’re right about spending hours here and only scratching the surface. There is SO much to see. Meanwhile, good call on the trifecta. :-)

  8. Walter

    Zack, sorry to hear about your store. I thought you were looking for a new job because they didnt like you leaving for games? Are you there full time now until April?

    Not for nothing but I’ve been unemployed for a year so you complaining about work doesn’t make me feel sympathy for you.

  9. Joe Miano

    You should leave the damaged items as they are and append your blog about the storm to the item’ reverse. Anyone can have a Babe Ruth autograph but how many Babe Ruth autographs can documented to have been damaged but survived the storm of the century? I think it adds gravitas to what might otherwise be only interesting.

  10. Ben Weil

    Oh. My. God. I had no idea. When I read the first line of this entry, my mind immediate jumped to those amendment documents. Wow, that’s horrible. I feel devastated for you guys, I’m so sorry. That’s the type of item that’s priceless, and I understand it’s just material, as compared to people who are displaced from their homes, as well as lives that have been lost, but it’s still a very tough pill to swallow. Sorry. Let me know if I can help in any way.

  11. Pei Kang

    Hey buddy boy,

    thought of leaving you a call, except I keep losing your number. Other than the expensive items damaged, glad all is well in general


  12. Zack Hample

    Oh, man . . . sorry to hear about your unemployment. I’m still at the Argosy — just not full-time. For now, I’m not looking for other work, but I’m often tempted.

    Interesting idea, but the scary thing is that because of global warming, storms like this are going to be common.

    Thanks. You can help simply by continuing to be part of my life.

    PEI KANG!!!
    Wow! It’s great to hear from you. I’m gonna email you with my number, so maybe we’ll talk soon . . .

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