Like many New York City developers, K. Thomas Elghanayan, president of Rockrose Development Corp., didn't realize the magnitude of the destruction caused by the attacks of Sept. 11th until he went downtown and saw it for himself.

"I think 9/11 was a shocker for us," says Elghanayan. "It really knocked the wind out of our sails. I think that's true for all New York City developers. Everything was going great. There were some worrisome things on the radar screen, but, by and large, the office market was strong, the residential market was strong and the future seemed so bright for New York that you could be optimistic."

The day after the attacks, there was a layer of ash that covered the area from Ground Zero out across the entire width of lower Manhattan, explains Andy Singer, principal of The Singer & Bassak Organization, the company's mortgage broker. "No matter where you were, you were walking on a layer of ash and debris, [and] everything looked gray."

From Left to Right: H. Henry, K. Thomas and Frederick Elghanayan
From Left to Right: H. Henry, K. Thomas and Frederick Elghanayan

The entire area was devastated, agrees Kevin R. Williams, president of DJM Restoration Inc., one of Rockrose's exterior restoration contractors. "It looked like a war zone; there was everything from military personnel to a rescue triage right in front of one of Rockrose's buildings."

Now Elghanayan and his two brothers – H. Henry and Frederick, all equal partners – are much more cautious.

"I didn't realize that we had so many buildings downtown (2,500 units in eight buildings)," says T. Elghanayan. "I never thought that having an overconcentration of buildings in one location was part of the risk. It's hard to imagine that you could get hurt in this sort of very sudden way. Perhaps there's a risk of a neighborhood going down, but not a sudden cataclysmic event."

Rockrose was luckier than some – none of its buildings suffered any structural damage. However, because of the buildings' proximity to the World Trade Center (just a few blocks away), the company's buildings were all evacuated, and they became covered in dust and debris, says F. Elghanayan, president of Rockrose Construction Corp., a division of the company.