Last night I got to do something I rarely do — go out on the town. Not only am I the Chief Technology Officer at the Downtown Alliance, but I am also the father of twin 11-year olds. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for partying on a Tuesday night.
But right now my children are with their grandparents in Ecuador. My wife and I are briefly living a child-free existence, trying not to miss them too much and trying to make the most of our fleeting free time.
Along came “Night at the Museums.” On the evening of June 24, 13 Lower Manhattan museums and cultural institutions offered free special programming. We were in — but the museums turned out to be only one part of a very special night.
My wife drove into Manhattan and parked on Pearl Street. The first thing we both noticed was the crowds of people on Pearl Street and on the other side on Stone Street watching the World Cup games, glued to the TV, cheering and yelling with every exciting moment. People from every color and nationality having a blast together, watching the same games being watched by millions all over the world.
When the games ended, we headed over to the Skyscraper Museum in Battery Park City. First, we passed by Bowling Green and the Downtown Alliance’s StreetCharge device and visitor kiosk. We strolled by Battery Park (where Pier A is and where the Alliance working to set up a new Visitor Center for tourists). We crossed West Street and entered the unique world of Battery Park City.
My favorite part of the Skyscraper Museum was the photo below. Yes, before the World Trade Center was built, Battery Park City didn’t exist. That street running up the west side is, well, West Street. Now, Battery Park City is to the west of West Street. But at the time of this photo, there was nothing but a row of piers west of West Street. Pretty incredible, right?
After we left the Skyscraper Museum, we went to the Museum of Jewish Heritage and were profoundly moved by the Against the Odds Exhibit. It chronicles the challenges of Jews trying to immigrate to the United States during the Great Depression. It was both interesting and disturbing; I was saddened to learn how many Jews could’ve come to this country but were denied visas (even though the number of German immigrants was well below the U.S. quotas).
As soon as you exit that exhibit, there is a gorgeous room showing an incredible view of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. But after a few minutes, I noticed something else.
Families playing in the park.
The juxtaposition of a getting a dose of Lower Manhattan history and then watching families play in their “backyard” just down the street drove home how much Lower Manhattan has changed. It seemed to me that we have found the balance between construction and progress and families and our future. It has been fascinating to watch all of this for the 14 years I’ve been working down here.
We headed back to Stone Street and had dinner at Becketts. Our waiter had an authentic Irish brogue. We sat outside. The food was delicious, and my wife loved her Guinness. At 9:00 p.m., I looked up and realized I still had to raise my voice so she could hear me. The place was packed with no sign of letting up.
Last night, Lower Manhattan was our playground, and it was exactly what we needed it to be.
You can follow Jeremy Schneider and his technological adventures at @JGS_Tech.