Friday, January 02, 1998

New Year Floods in Flatiron District Damage Some Shops

Like a scene from "Volcano," the cheesy disaster flick in which downtown LA is swallowed whole by the Labrea Tar Pits, a part of Silicon Alley seemed to fall into the earth last week. I'm referring, of course, to the explosions and floods in the Flatiron District. Quite a few businesses felt the brunt of not being able to get in their building with ease, not allowed to leave (for a decent meal no less!), not to mention maintain a level of operability.

The guys at Social Science ( desperately waved white sheets out their office windows on Jan. 2, after being forced to a lunch of tuna and white bread. Oh my! And while Flatiron Partners, iVillage, Digital Exchange, and Digital City Studio had no problems other than not being able to get to Eureka Joe's for some caffeine, CKS Site Specific lost its T1 lines for a couple of days -- mainly because Bell Atlantic had more pressing problems in the area.

One vignette with a bit more drama is the story of Tanya Aleksa and Ken Schaffer (, who was described in "The New Yorker" as an engineer, inventor, rock-star manager and Sovietologist, offered details on this scoop. Ms. Aleksa is a determined, dynamic, young woman who moved to New York from Moscow two years ago with not more than a few kopecks. She now runs a successful ISP that serves businesses with dedicated services and more than a thousand individuals with dial-up. is located yards away from the broken water main and subsequent gas explosion. Needless to say, their T1s, business phones, electric, and water "got broke."

Throughout New Year's weekend, Tanya and her cohorts cajoled police, fire and the New York City Office of Emergency Management officials with such charm, wit, and persistence that Monday morning, accompanied by three flood-light bearing police officers, her team climbed eight flights of stairs to remove six servers.

At the same time, Octet combed the town to make arrangements to temporarily house its servers, not with its upstream provider -- which bailed (sorry for the bad pun) during the emergency) -- but with a compassionate fellow-ISP, Thanks to intercom's Daniel Herschlag, Octet was back up hours after the start of the first business day following the Fifth Avenue Armageddon. While Octet web hosting, co-located servers, shell and mail services are up "business as usual," however, dial-up remains down.

What will happen to Octet's dial-up customers until Con Edison, Bell Atlantic and the City's Office of Emergency Management put Fifth Avenue back together? What ISP would be willing to offer Tanya's customers temporary public dial-up access while, and thus make Octet's heroic restoration of services a home run? Perhaps it's time for a little Silicon Alley "coopetition," eh?

(Appeared originally in @The Scene in the @NY newsletter)