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The Financial District: A historic nabe that's as New York as it gets

The Federal Hall National Museum in the Financial

The Federal Hall National Museum in the Financial District (Anthony Lanzilote) Credit: The Federal Hall National Museum in the Financial District (Anthony Lanzilote)

As 17th century Dutch settlers were enchanted with the pristine nature and advantageous location of what is now the Financial District, so might modern day visitors be drawn to FiDi’s architecture, landmarked buildings and monuments.

All over the Financial District, visitors and residents can witness testaments to three centuries of history.

Before Michael Douglas’ “Wall Street” character Gordon Gekko became a household name, the Financial District served as headquarters for early (nonfictional) financiers such as Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, who is buried at Trinity Church.

Trinity Church is one of many historical sites here. The first construction was completed in 1698, but the current church, built in 1846, is a National Historical Landmark in part due to its Gothic Revival architecture, according to the church’s website.

Other important landmarks include the Castle Clinton National Monument, the New York Stock Exchange and Federal Hall National Memorial.

Built in preparation for the War of 1812 on the southern end of Battery Park, Castle Clinton previously served as an entertainment center, immigration depot and aquarium. Today, more than three million visitors stop by annually.

Symbolizing the hub of American finance, the New York Stock Exchange building is noted for its neoclassical style and six Corinthian columns, though the hectic trading floor inside is closed to the public post-9/11.

The Federal Hall National Memorial is a museum, paying homage to its history as the nation’s first Congress, Supreme Court and executive branch headquarters.
Long gone are the days of FiDi clearing out come 6 p.m. Instead, eateries for every budget and a diverse range of bars dot the nabe.

Delmonico’s, an acclaimed FiDi mainstay, serves classic Italian-American steakhouse staples, but the charm of the old-world is sometimes lost among the overwhelming crowds and exorbitant pricing.

MarkJoseph Steakhouse prides itself on its high-quality steak and seafood, and is more budget-friendly.

Between the historical setting and bustling nightlife, the Financial District is a popular place to live.

“There are a lot of newer buildinggs — which often have tax abatements — and they have all of the amenities you could want,” said Christine Ra, president of brokerage firm Ra Partners. “Full-service, with lounges, decks, gyms, some have children’s playrooms or pools. Plus there are many buildings with unobstructed views of the water, Statue of Liberty and World Trade Center memorial.”

Terry Lautin, a broker at the real estate firm Town Residential, has worked in the Financial District for 15 years.

“Down here, it’s almost all condo, and the conversions are fairly recent, making the finishes newer and more appealing to buyers,” Lautin said. “Condominium ownership works for a larger section of the market than co-op, as the approval process is more transparent, and condos give an owner the ability to rent the property ... ”

Either way, in the Financial District there is an option for any type of resident.

“Ten years ago there were just a few residential projects to show buyers in FiDi,” said Lautin. “And now there are dozens.”

FIND IT: FiDi runs from Chambers Street to the north and the tip of Manhattan to the south. West Street and the East River are its western and eastern boundaries.

THE BASICS:
The Financial District is a pleasantly walkable neighborhood with numerous parks and paths along the water. Numerous trains will take you there.

TRAIN:
1 to Chambers Street
A, C, J, Z, 2, 3, 4, 5 to Chambers Street, Fulton Street
1, R to Rector Street
R to City Hall, Whitehall Street
2, 3 Park Place
4, 5 to Bowling Green, Wall Street
4, 5, 6 to Brooklyn Bridge

BUSES:
M5, M9, M15, M20, M22, M103, x25, x90

LIBRARY:
New York Public Library — New Amsterdam Library, 9 Murray St.
NYCLU Law Library, 125 Broad St.

POST OFFICE:
1 Hanover St.
90 Church St.
114 John St.

CRIME:
The 1st Precinct covers FiDi, along with Battery Park, SoHo and TriBeCa. According to the NYPD’s CompStat reports, overall crime has declined nearly 54% from 2001 to 2012. All major crimes, including murder and robbery, have also declined.

TO EAT
Harry’s Cafe & Steak, 1 Hanover Square.
Harry’s is not so much a restaurant as it is an institution. The original Harry’s at Hanover Square opened in 1972 and soon became the talk of the town, or at least Wall Street (Patrick Bateman mentions it in the film, “American Psycho”) but closed in 2006. This semi-reincarnation has two parts — a ritzy steakhouse and a more approachable cafe area. Pro tip: make reservations for the exceptional Saturday brunches to bypass the often-long lines. 212-785-9200. Open Mon.-Fri., 11:30 a.m.- 1 a.m., Sat., 11 a.m.-2 a.m.

Alfanoose, 8 Maiden Lane. Looking for something different from old-school steakhouses and sandwich joints? Alfanoose serves up high-quality Middle Eastern cuisine. Their well-spiced falafel is consistently included on best-of lists, and their wide variety of other vegetarian options and tasty lamb dishes don’t hurt their rep, either. 212-528-4669. Open Mon.-Sat., 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Sun., noon-9:30 p.m.

Dough Re Mi, 36 Water St. Superstorm Sandy delayed their grand opening, but Dough Re Mi is finally dishing out gourmet grilled cheeses, Greek yogurt with mix-ins and bagels. They even have doughnuts with pick-your-own toppings. 212-947-4401. Open Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m.-4 p.m.

TO PARTY
Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog, 30 Water St.
This recently opened joint, crowned “World’s Best New Cocktail Bar” at a recent major industry event, is receiving major buzz — and for good reason. Divided into different sections, Dead Rabbit brings old-world charm to a sometimes-charmless area. The parlor pours 72 “historically accurate” cocktails (and gallons of communal punch) while the taproom has whiskey and brews. 646-422-7906. Open Mon.-Sun., 11 a.m.-4 a.m.

Manhattan Proper and Social Club, 6 Murray St. A sports bar with an upscale atmosphere and serious nosh, Manhattan Proper offers a nice if uncreative mix of draft and bottled beers, as well as wine. Check out the above-average bar food, like mini sliders with white cheddar, applewood-smoked bacon and caramelized onions. 646-559-4445. Open Mon.-Sun., 11 a.m.-1 a.m.

Ulysses, 95 Pearl St. Ulysses, which calls itself a folk house, has a convivial vibe, strong cocktails and an impressive selection of beers. Weekdays can be hit-or-miss crowd-wise, but the live music on Saturday nights is particularly popular. 212-482-0400. Open Mon.-Sun., 11 a.m.-4 a.m.

TO SHOP
Zeytuna, 59 Maiden Lane.
Have an amazing-sounding recipe but missing one of the ingredients? Specialty market Zeytuna is sure to have it. Plus, the large self-service cafeteria has ample seating both indoors and outdoors, perfect for a speedy lunch break. 212-742-2436. Open Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m.-11 p.m., Sat.-Sun., 8 a.m.-11 p.m.

Chameleon Comics and Cards, 3 Maiden Lane. This comic book and trading card outpost has catered to the hobby-minded crowd since 1992. You’ll also find graphic novels, statues and more. Check out the membership program for 10-20% discounts off new items. 212-587-3411. Open Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Century 21, 22 Cortlandt St. This superstore offers discounts on designer goods, including men’s, women’s and children’s clothing, accessories and home goods. Because it has a tendency to get hectic here, try to visit closer to opening or closing hours. 212-227-9092. Open Mon.-Wed., 8 a.m.-9 p.m., Thurs.-Fri., 8 a.m.-9:30 p.m., Sat., 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

J&R, 1 Park Row (across from City Hall Park).  Around for more than 40 years, the store is well known for offering great deals on entertainment, electronics, sporting goods, toys and home essentials. The store also hosts celeb signings and the annual SummerFest and MusicFest. Open Mon.-Wed., 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Thurs.-Fri., 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

TO DO
Fraunces Tavern Museum, 54 Pearl St
. This building’s significance dates back to the Revolutionary War. Highlights include the Long Room, which is where George Washington gave his final speech to his officers, and the Clinton Room, a re-creation of a Federalist-style dining room. There are also exhibitions about the Sons of the Revolution and early American flags. Bonus: the museum is connected to an excellent old-school tavern and restaurant. 212-425-1778. Open Mon.-Sun., noon-5 p.m.

National Museum of the American Indian-New York,1 Bowling Green. A component of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Museum of the American Indian explores 12,000 years of Native American history and culture with collections of artwork and artifacts and traveling exhibits. Visiting the museum is free. 212-514-3700. Open Mon.-Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (8 p.m. on Thurs.).

Battery Park, bounded by Battery Place to the north, State Street to the east, the Hudson River to the west and New York Harbor to the south. Another supremely historical Financial District spot, Battery Park was the first defensive post taken by early Dutch settlers and, during the 19th century, an important immigration center. Today, Battery Park offers numerous dog-friendly pathways, some spectacular waterfront views and 53,000 square feet of gardens, known as the Bosque. 212-408-0100. Open Mon.-Sun., 8 a.m.-9 p.m.

BUZZ

The Westfield Group is constructing a retail center in the new World Trade Center, slated to open in 2015.

The 350,000-square-foot concourse will include five levels — two below-ground — leased to roughly 150 different stores, according to published reports.

The cost of the deal, a joint venture between Westfield and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was $1.25 billion, according to Reuters.

***

Q&A with Eddie Travers: Owner of the historic Fraunces Tavern
Eddie Travers and his wife, Dervila, have been the co-owners of The Porterhouse Brewing Co. at Fraunces Tavern for three years.

Here Travers dishes about changes in the nabe, saying, “the future feels really bright for the Financial District.”

In one of the oldest, if not the oldest, buildings in Manhattan, do you feel the tavern has maintained its original goals? Our focus is on providing the best food and drink we can. We are very proud of our history and try to incorporate it into our menus. We have a Grapefruit Grog, made with fresh juices just like the original served on colonial ships that docked right outside the tavern.

What type of customers do you have? Due to the historical nature of the building, and its location within the Financial District, we attract a large variety of different customers. We get a large after-work crowd with a busy happy hour trade. We find we are seeing a lot more locals at night, both during the week and [on] weekends.

What changes have you seen in the neighborhood over the years? It’s hard to talk about the history of this area without mentioning 9/11, the recession and most recently Hurricane Sandy. We believe the financial downturn has had more of a positive affect than negative. When some of the larger buildings lost business tenants they swapped to residential. This has had a remarkable effect on the area, creating a new community.


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