THE POST-9/11 TRIUMPH OF LOWER MANHATTAN

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By Liz Berger

Lower Manhattan is back—and better than ever.

On September 11, 2001, the worst terrorist attack ever on American soil took 2,752  lives in Lower Manhattan. Fourteen million square feet of commercial office space were damaged or destroyed. Sixty-five thousand jobs were lost or relocated. More than 20,000 residents were at least temporarily displaced.

The story of 9/11 is global, but it is also personal.  Ten years ago,  I was standing in front of PS 234 talking to J.C. Chmiel, another parent, when all of a sudden I looked up, thinking, “Do planes usually fly that low?” Forty-five seconds later, all of us ran into the school.  It was the end of life as we knew it, although we didn’t know that until later.

But, even in those first incomprehensible minutes, before the scope and the depth of the horror became clear,  the best of the community—and quickly, of New York City—was there: parents, teachers, neighbors in the school to vote (it was Primary Election Day), and the incomparable Principal Anna Switzer, all supporting each other and our kids.

Outside, passersby directed traffic when the signals failed, merchants welcomed pedestrians into their storefronts, neighbors and colleagues banded together as they determined where to go and what to do.

It was months—in some cases, years—before many of us returned home.  But we did, determined to join with Lower Manhattan’s property owners, businesses, merchants and elected leadership to rebuild what we had lost.

A decade later, September 11th was a day of mourning and remembrance, but there is solace and joy in our community’s recovery and resurgence.

Ten years ago, many doubted that Lower Manhattan had a future, but today, those doubts have been replaced by enthusiasm and excitement. Lower Manhattan is one of New York City’s hottest commercial, residential and tourism destinations, a whole new kind of place in which to live, work, study and visit. To mark the 10th anniversary, the Downtown Alliance has produced a comprehensive review of all that’s happened, The State of Lower Manhattan 2011, and I urge you to take a look at this report online.

The proof of Lower Manhattan’s ascendance is as clear as the rising steel of 1 World Trade Center and 4 World Trade Center, which have already transformed our city’s skyline. When these architectural icons open within the next three years, they will become part of a business district that has more brand-new, high-tech, green commercial and residential office space than any other in the country.

Business and family, history and innovation, global and local, the biggest buildings on the smallest streets – these are the exciting contrasts that make Lower Manhattan unique.  Add triple the number of hotels that were here on September 10, 2001, six new primary and secondary schools in the last two years alone, and 307 new companies in a rapidly and happily diversifying economy, and it’s clear that while there’s still much to do, Lower Manhattan will continue to grow and flourish.

Liz Berger is President of the Downtown Alliance.  For a copy of The State of Lower Manhattan 2011, click here.