A Decade After 9/11, Lower Manhattan Survives and Thrives

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Ten years ago, there were 30,000 people living in Lower Manhattan and the neighborhood was a 24/7 destination. Then on one fateful day, 3,000 lives were tragically lost and a 16-acre hole blasted through our community, taking 50,000 jobs and 60 percent of all Class A Downtown office space.

The total economic damage in Lower Manhattan was estimated at approximately $31 billion—citywide, it was approximately $83 billion. Many predicted that no one would ever want to live, work or even visit Lower Manhattan again. Economic experts spoke about the decline of New York City as an economic center. Our city lost 11,130 jobs in September 2001 alone.

In the months following, 7,000 apartments near the site sat uninhabited, an estimated vacancy rate of 45 percent. After Sept. 11, 2001, approximately one-third of Battery Park City’s rental tenants left their apartments, and the overall occupancy rate in Lower Manhattan fell to 65 percent.

Our remarkable success 10 years later is thanks to the dedication and perseverance of our community. It is also thanks to the firm commitment and dedicated investment of the federal, state and city governments, all of which invested in reconstruction and rebuilding of Lower Manhattan’s infrastructure. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation’s Residential Grant Program encouraged residential growth, providing a total of $227 million to 156 businesses and 39,805 households from 2002 to 2005. The program was so successful that as of 2006, over half of the residents in the area around the WTC site had moved to Lower Manhattan since Sept. 11, 2001.

At Community Board 1, we have conducted our own studies of neighborhood population growth and the numbers are stunning—our population Downtown has more than doubled since 2000, to 70,000 residents. In the Financial District, it has tripled.

The growth Downtown has been so tremendous that one of our main efforts as a community board has been to ensure that community facilities and public services keep pace. We have fought, for example, for the construction of three new schools—P.S. 276, P.S. 397 and another planned to open at the old Peck Slip Post Office. We helped create a community center, the Manhattan Youth Downtown Community Center and a new community center and branch of the New York Public Library in Battery Park City. We have also helped build many new playgrounds, numerous new parks and a new ballfield.

We have rezoned Northern Tribeca with the Department of City Planning and insisted on inclusionary zoning, so more affordable housing can be built in our neighborhood. We have limited the size of big-box retailers in Tribeca so we can preserve the character and context of our neighborhoods. We convinced the city to adopt NotifyNYC, a citywide notification system for emergencies. But still more services and amenities are needed to accommodate our ever-growing population.

Our community has endured a lot in the last 10 years—terrorist attacks and recessions and even, most recently, earthquakes and mandatory evacuations for hurricanes. It is based on this experience that I can say, on the eve of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, we are a community of survivors, determined to thrive and grow no matter what the future has in store for us.

Photo Credit: Julie Menin, chairperson of Community Board 1

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