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10 years on, downtown soars like never before

Sol LeWitt public art at City Hall Park

Sol LeWitt public art at City Hall Park in Lower Manhattan. (Photo by Nicholas Grant). Photo Credit: Sol LeWitt public art at City Hall Park in Lower Manhattan. (Photo by Nicholas Grant).

When the National September 11 Memorial opens in a few days, featuring twin cascading waterfalls in the footprints of the lost towers, it will be a place of remembrance.

But those two waterfalls also symbolize the renewal of the World Trade Center’s neighborhood, the historic heart of Manhattan that seemed damaged beyond repair 10 years ago Sunday.

“It’s sometimes easy not to take into account how bleak it was for our community after 9/11,” says Julie Menin, president of the community board that serves lower Manhattan.

For a long stretch, the neighborhood’s future was as dark as the day the towers came down.

Menin recalled a time when few wanted to visit lower Manhattan, much less work or live there.

But all that has changed.

Bolstered by initiatives such as free art and music programming, the star power behind the Tribeca Film Festival, and new parks, lower Manhattan’s turnaround has been nothing short of a miracle.

Now, after 10 years and $30 billion in investment from public and private entities, the neighborhood is bigger than ever.

And in an echo of its days as the first Dutch settlement, New Amsterdam, residents are streaming to the island’s tip in droves.

The 2000 census recorded 24,000 residents; this year, according to data provided by the Alliance for Downtown New York, 56,000 people call lower Manhattan home, and that number is growing.

“I know lower Manhattan will continue to grow and flourish. With a 400-year track record of history and innovation, [it] has survived wars, fires and economic uncertainty and each time has come back stronger,” said Elizabeth H. Berger, president of the Alliance for Downtown New York.

While the new World Trade Center rises, the ground below bustles with activity.

Forty-eight new businesses opened in the neighborhood since 2001, and the Alliance for Downtown New York counts 307 business relocations to the neighborhood from diverse industries.

When luxury retailers such as Hermes and Tiffany & Co. opened shop below Canal Street, it sent a sign of confidence that downtown was on the upswing. And the openings of Whole Foods, Barnes & Noble and Bed, Bath & Beyond in neighboring TriBeCa established that downtown truly was a place to live once again.

TriBeCa has benefited from the recovery, too.

Said Tracy Nieporent, a partner in the Myriad Group, which owns Tribeca Grill and Nobu: “We were very touched by what happened on 9/11 — just 10 blocks away. We fed the rescue workers and were closed down for many weeks.

“It took a while to recover, but there was never any question that we going to recover — we’ve all had a great spirit to forge ahead.” 


To play

Fraunces Tavern
54 Pearl St., 212-968-1776
Famous as the site of George Washington’s farewell speech to his troops, it’s a fine place to raise a glass and toast the founding father with one of the house brews. The rambling rooms offer plenty of nooks for drinking and eating American pie.

To buy

Studio on the 30th floor of an Art Deco condominium building. $599,000.
20 West St.,  Ester or Albert Lim,  212-381-3390.

One-bedroom, 1.5-bath floor-through loft with original details. $1,695,000.
30 Worth St., Richard Orenstein, 212-381-4248.

To rent

Two-bedroom, two-bath unit in Battery Park City high-rise (New York Plaza). $4,585/month. 2 Water St., Charles Botensten, 212-381-6582.

One-bedroom in luxury high-rise prewar building. $3,580/month.
25 Broad St., Domonique Anderson, 212-317-7860.

To shop

Christina Lehr
139 Reade St., 212-608-1000
Designer Christina Lehr’s boutique focuses on knitwear for unfussy women.

Philip Williams Posters
122 Chambers St., 212-513-0313
This warehouse/gallery specializes in European graphic arts.

138 W. Broadway, 212-233-9610
Stella’s owners travel the world for stylish home items, from tabletops to towels and bedding.

Century 21
22 Cortlandt St., 212-227-9092
9/11 shuttered the fashion department store, but upon its reopening six months later, savvy shoppers returned for the markdowns.

To eat

Ulysses’ Folk House
58 Stone St., 212-482-0400
It’s known for its whiskey menu and its carvery (all you can eat every Monday for $25), but patrons can get some surf and turf at the pub’s Historic District Oyster Festival on Sept. 17.

Plein Sud
85 W. Broadway, 212-204-5555
Located in the chic Smyth Hotel, this brassiere from Paris native Frederick Lesort serves classic and modern regional French plates. One floor below, the Toro bar is a red-hot lounge.

To see

The National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center
20 Vesey St., 212-266-5200
Opening to the public Sept. 12, the day after a private ceremony for 9/11 families, the site is a remembrance of lives lost and a symbol of renewal. The full museum opens next year with walk-through galleries of artifacts and tributes, which are on display now at the preview site.

City Hall Park
Broadway, Park Row and Chambers Street
One of Manhattan’s oldest green spaces has been refurbished and is the site of a Sol LeWitt installation — 27 pieces from the blue-chip artist on display through December.

Museum of Chinese in America
215 Centre St., 212-619-4785
The 2009 design by Maya Lin of a new museum enabled MOCA to increase its holdings and profile. Now, the modern and inclusive ethnographic venue presents the artifacts and histories of a diverse community across 160 years.


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