‘Daily News’ scrambling to relocate staff as storm-drenched downtown headquarters dry out

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Six feet of water outside Daily News headquarters during Sandy. ()
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Daily News employees on Monday were told to expect their offices at 4 New York Plaza to be out of commission for nine months.

In a companywide memo, News president Bill Holiber said some of the water that flooded the paper's Financial District headquarters during superstorm Sandy on Oct. 29 was still being pumped out as of this morning and that there was "significant damage to the infrastructure ... of the building that must be addressed" before staffers could return to their desks.

The timeline Holiber gave was nine months, echoing comments made by News owner Mort Zuckerman at a real-estate conference last week. Holiber said the company hoped to have a new temporary space secured by the end of January.

"We are in the process of looking for office space in Manhattan for all of our NY-based employees for up to a year," Holiber wrote in his memo. "There are many variables that need to be taken into consideration in finding appropriate temporary space that meets our needs. The most significant is the technological capabilities we require to operate efficiently. I am not sure how long identifying such space will take, but I assure you that we are using every possible means to secure the temporary Manhattan space we desire as soon as we can."

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In the meantime, editor-in-chief Colin Myler and members of his senior newsroom team have been working out of the News' commercial printing facility in Jersey City. Most of the rank-and-file, however, have been camped out in the bureaus or filing remotely or from home.

Zuckerman visited the Jersey City location last Wednesday to meet with the troops, but did not discuss the timeframe for getting the New York Plaza offices up and running, according to people familiar with the meeting. The next day, Zuckerman said during the Observer Media Group's Masters of Real Estate conference that the company was expecting 4 New York Plaza to be down for nine months to a year, a remark that was reported by The Commercial Observer.

Sources said News staffers were miffed that they had to read about how long they'd be out of pocket via The Observer before hearing it internally from company brass. They were also irked that Zuckerman didn't bring employees into the loop during his Jersey City visit.

"It was a meeting to really thank everybody for their effort to keep the paper going," Holiber told Capital when reached for comment. "It wasn't a meeting to discuss what our plans are. Mort was gracious and feels honored to be working with a group of people at this company such as us, and that's what it was about."

After Sandy knocked out News operations both at 4 New York Plaza and, for several days, at the Jersey City printing plant, the paper relied on help from other news outlets to produce its print edition and get it out the door and onto stands. The paper did not miss a day of printing.

You can read Holiber's full memo below:

To state the obvious, these past two weeks have been a whirlwind for our Companies. Under extremely difficult circumstances and against all odds, we were able to continue operations and deliver the news to New Yorkers and interested readers throughout the U.S. You should all be proud of this incredible accomplishment. I, for one, am amazed by what we have been able to do. There are numerous people to thank, in fact, too many to mention by name.

What I want to do is bring you up to date on what the future options are that we are planning for. It is a fluid situation, but I will share with you what I understand to be the case right now.

We do not believe that we will be returning to 4 New York Plaza as quickly as we would all like. As of this morning, water is still being pumped out of the building. There is also significant damage to the infrastructure (electrical components, etc. that were located in the lower levels) of the building that must be addressed. Based on our knowledge, we believe it prudent to plan for being out of 4 New York Plaza for approximately 9 months. As a result, we are in the process of looking for office space in Manhattan for all of our NY-based employees for up to a year. There are many variables that need to be taken into consideration in finding appropriate temporary space that meets our needs. The most significant is the technological capabilities we require to operate efficiently. I am not sure how long identifying such space will take, but I assure you that we are using every possible means to secure the temporary Manhattan space we desire as soon as we can. Putting a timetable on this will surely get me into trouble but, hopefully, we will all be re-located by the end of January. Please understand that many things could come up to alter this goal.

In the meantime, we will do what we can to improve our current situation while at the Liberty View site, such as installing equipment, which has already been ordered, to strengthen cell phone signals at the plant.

We are lucky that the plant has the space to accommodate us and that so many of our employees are able to operate remotely. We thank our Liberty View based coworkers for being so hospitable to us. Things are working, we are connected, the paper, web sites, advertising, printing and distribution regained full capacity quite quickly. I wish we could eliminate the inconvenience experienced by many of you commuting to the plant, but with the recent opening of Path service and other alternatives that were not originally available; the commute should be much improved for all.

I'll keep you posted as soon as I have more information. If anyone has any questions, thoughts or concerns send me a email, ask me questions when we pass in the building, or stop by my new "digs" upstairs, in the front of the building.

Bill