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With 9/11 museum's opening, Battery Park City bounces back

Robert Simko, a longtime Battery Park City resident,

Robert Simko, a longtime Battery Park City resident, views the 4 World Trade Center from Police Memorial Wall at Battery Park City, May 16, 2014. Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Robert Simko, longtime Battery Park City resident and community newspaper publisher, hopes the National September 11 Memorial Museum will be a testament to the morning of 9/11.

"The story needs to be kept alive," said Simko, who, like hundreds in the neighborhood, watched from their windows as two hijacked jetliners crashed into the towers.

"It was an awful morning. It was really like hell," he said. "Ten stories high of black smoke that sucked out the whole light of that day."

Simko, editor of The Broadsheet and The Broadsheet Daily website, was glad for the initial dedication week, which opened the museum first to residents, first responders and others directly affected. It opens to the public Wednesday.

After the attacks, Simko continued to publish his biweekly newspaper, which he delivered with a handcart pushed from his Chinatown printer because cars and trucks were not allowed in the neighborhood.

"People were so appreciative when I handed them their papers," he said. "They said seeing The Broadsheet made them feel that we were still here."

The residents of the original Battery Park City neighborhood see themselves as a forgotten group directly affected by the attacks. They were forced from their homes, which were embedded in dust and debris from the collapsed towers, and many waited almost a year to return.

Simko and his neighbors resumed their lives. They raised families around the construction of 1 World Trade and the museum, which is expected to attract 2.5 million visitors a year, generating unprecedented growth in restaurant and retail business.

He explained that "9/11 has changed the neighborhood."

With swarms of tourists visiting the neighborhood, he said, "It's more like Times Square." He said before the attacks there were just two hotels in the neighborhood, a far cry from the 22 now there.

With the good comes the bad.

Many locals disapprove of the triple-digit salaries of museum officials, the $24 tickets and the souvenir shops, he said.

"The museum building is beautiful. I love taking photographs of it every day," said Simko, who said he hopes the museum and the business it lures will not push out the spirit of the neighborhood.

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