NEW YORK —
A visitor in July to the World Financial Center — a gleaming, multi-corporation complex that overlooks the World Trade Center construction site — could see a blues trio serenading a lunchtime crowd of brokers, lawyers, bankers and analysts milling around a sun-baked outdoor plaza. Men in pressed shirts and ties, and women in business skirts and heels waited in line as vendors grilled their sandwiches, and then ate at tables shaded by umbrellas. Joggers dodged pedestrians. In the distance, boats gave tourists a view of the Big Apple skyline from the Hudson River.
“It’s a resilient city,” said Robert Anello, a 56-year-old Manhattan attorney, standing atop the steps of the plaza overlooking the famed waterway.
Five blocks away, Father Kevin Madigan — pastor at St. Peter’s Church — explained that New York “is so much more” than the most horrific chapter in its history. That includes the financial district, where St. Peter’s sits at 22 Barclay St. and faces the World Trade Center. “This neighborhood, which was the most severely impacted, is now a flourishing neighborhood,” Madigan said.
Thirtysomething newcomers pay high rent, the priest explained, but enjoy the proximity to their jobs and peaceful evenings and weekends, when offices are closed. “You can walk to work during the week, and then you have the weekends,” Madigan said. “It’s relatively quiet while other parts of Manhattan are relatively busy through the week. So it’s one of the most desirable places to live now. And mostly, it’s newly married couples. Most of our baptisms are first-borns here.”
Indeed, the number of residents has more than doubled since 9/11, growing to 56,000 from 24,000, according to the Alliance for Downtown New York Inc. Eighteen hotels operate in the district now, compared to just six in 2001. A total of 309,500 people work there, down by 15,000 from a decade ago. (It should be noted that the new World Trade Center structures — four skyscrapers replacing the original seven — are not due to be completed until 2013, 2013, 2015 and 2016, respectively.) Tourism, though, is booming. Last year, more than 9 million people visited the heartland of capitalism, where Wall Street is a real place, stretching from Broadway to FDR Drive and the East River.