Mike Bloomberg on the Rebirth of Lower Manhattan Since 9/11
By NYC.gov - SEP. 06, 2011
The following are Mayor Bloomberg’s remarks as delivered
this morning at a breakfast in Lower Manhattan sponsored by the Association for
a Better New York. Click here for video Mayor Bloomberg's remarks.
Good morning, and Bill, thank you for that kind introduction. Thank you for coming all of you, and I want to thank ABNY in particular for sponsoring this breakfast.
“Some of you may not know that Bill’s father Lew founded ABNY in the early 1970s, when New York City was struggling with problems that were growing worse by the day. But because people like Lew and his brother Jack never gave up, because community leaders in every borough banded together to revitalize their neighborhoods, and because Mayors Koch, Dinkins, and Giuliani – and Governors Carey, Cuomo, and Pataki – provided strong and determined leadership, New York wrote a comeback story that became the envy of cities nationwide.
“And yet – in one September morning 10 years ago this coming Sunday, that story was suddenly, utterly and terribly changed. The skyline that we had built came crashing down around us. The progress we had made came to a halt. And life as we knew it came to an end.
“This Sunday, on the 10th anniversary of the attacks on America, each of us will reflect on where we were, what we were doing, who we were with, and most of all, who we lost: husbands and wives, parents and children, friends and colleagues, people we loved deeply and people we knew just casually, people whose stories we knew only from the news, people who gave their lives to save complete strangers.
“Sunday morning, we will remember each one of them in a ceremony at the World Trade Center site, where a beautiful new memorial designed by Michael Arad and Peter Walker will open. In 2006, when I became chair of the Memorial foundation, we committed to opening the memorial on the 10th anniversary – and thanks to so many people who worked hard to make it happen, we’re delivering on that commitment.
“But as important as the memorial is, and I believe it could not be more important, we owe the victims much more than ceremonies and symbolism. At the 9/11 funerals and memorial services I attended, I heard stories of people so full of life – full of love – full of laughter. I heard about their dreams for the future – for themselves, and also for their families and children. I heard about their character and courage and the sacrifices they made. Their spirit inspired all of us – and I believe we owe it to them to keep their spirit alive, not only in our own hearts, not only at the World Trade Center site, but on every street they walked here in Lower Manhattan. Now I have to tell you, nothing makes me prouder as Mayor of this great City to know that we are accomplishing that in spectacular fashion.
“This morning, we gather just a few blocks from the World Trade Center site to reflect on the decade that has passed since that bright blue September sky turned dark and ashen, surrounding our city in grief. Back then, we did not know what the next hour held – no less the next 10 years. We didn’t know if we would be attacked again. And we didn’t know whether or not our city would ever recover. The sense of shock we felt hung heavy in the air for months – and so did the sense of worry we felt about whether our city’s best days were behind us.
“As a matter of fact, that December, a New York Times columnist wrote, ‘There are ominous signs, as the economy has deteriorated and the police have been diverted to terror-related tasks, that the bad old days are coming back.’ That was the fear then – that the bad old days were coming back. That crime would return. Residents would move out. Businesses would flee to the suburbs. And the city would go to seed. As we know, I’m happy to say, none of that happened. In fact, it has been just the opposite.
“In the wake of the attacks, New Yorkers united first in grief – and then in resolve. We understood that the hijackers did more than attack two buildings; they attacked the freedom that defines our city and country: The freedom to think and speak and worship and love as we wish. We understood that without those freedoms there was no New York City, no United States of America, no democratic society anywhere – only tyranny and terror. And we understood that we could not expect our men and women in uniform abroad to defend those values alone. We had to do our part right here at home.
“We had to show the world that – in everyday lives – terror could not diminish our tolerance. Hate could not defeat our hope. And fanaticism could not destroy our freedom. Each of us did that in a million little ways – in the flags we waved and the blood we gave and the donations we made. We did it in time by volunteering – as rescue and recovery workers, social workers and medical professionals, as caterers and caregivers. We did it in the way we treated each other – with a new-found sense of solidarity. People of every color, of every country, speaking every language, practicing every religion, holding every belief, and yet we were all New Yorkers first – proud of our city, and determined to bring it back.
“And did we ever. Over the past decade, New York City has come roaring back, faster and stronger than anyone thought possible. And with the biggest cuts in crime, the biggest growth in population, and the biggest investments in commercial development have all happened right here in Lower Manhattan.
“As we look back on the past decade, and as the picture of what has happened here comes into sharper focus, I believe the re-birth and revitalization of Lower Manhattan will be remembered as one of the greatest comeback stories in American history. And I believe it will stand as our greatest monument to those we lost on 9/11 and to our unshakeable faith in the moral imperative of protecting and preserving a free, open, democratic society.
“With every new resident that moves downtown, with every new business and house of worship that opens its doors, with every new student that enters a classroom, we honor the spirit of those we lost that day, we honor the values that define our city, and we honor the Constitution that sustains our great nation.
“The transformation of Lower Manhattan has been an enormous team effort – with the City, State, and Federal governments working together, investing together, and forming partnerships with the private sector. To fully appreciate the scale of the effort, you have to experience it for yourself.
“So this morning, I’d like to ask you to join me on a virtual walking tour of an area that, over the past decade, has become a real neighborhood – just as we had hoped when our Administration laid out a new vision for Lower Manhattan in 2002 as Bill said.
“Our goal was to turn a financial district that became a ghost town after 6 PM into a vibrant and dynamic 24/7 community. We believed that if we could create new housing, new schools, new parks, and new infrastructure, we could attract new residents and new businesses. And as we’ll see on the tour, they’ve come in droves.
“So let’s get started – take a look at the TV. Let’s begin by making a right on Wall Street and walking a few doors down to a little shop called Minas Shoe Repair. Minas Polychronakis had a shop in the World Trade Center 25 years ago. When the attacks came, he lost friends and customers – but not his faith in the community that he had helped build. Minas never gave up on Lower Manhattan, and in 2003, he found new space here on Wall Street. Through the ups and downs of the markets, Minas has made it. He is a 9/11 survivor in every sense of the word. And because of people like Minas – and because of so many entrepreneurs and CEOs who believed in downtown’s future – there are now more businesses operating in Lower Manhattan than there were on September 10th, 2001: baby stores, grocery stores, wine stores, home furnishing stores and start-up companies of every kind.
“Let's keep walking to visit one of those start-ups. In 2009, we created a small business incubator in partnership with ABNY – called the Hive at 55 Broad Street. It’s a place for entrepreneurs to get their ideas off the ground – and some of them have already outgrown the incubator and are now renting their own space. Let’s meet one of those entrepreneurs right now.
“Digital media start-ups are growing side-by-side with long-time downtown businesses like J&R. And later today, the City Council will hold a hearing on a zoning resolution that will allow a downtown icon, the Century 21 department store, to expand by three more floors. Century 21 is located directly across the street from the World Trade Center site – and 10 years ago, many wondered whether it could survive. But it re-opened less than six months after the attack, and today, it is not only surviving, it’s not only expanding, it is even opening a new store on the Upper West Side.
“It’s impossible to talk about the new small businesses in Lower Manhattan though without talking about something we all depend on – all the new restaurants, pubs, and cafes. So let’s take a walk over to the oldest paved street in the City: Stone Street. In 2001, Stone Street was a dark and desolate back alley with nice cobblestones but not much else. Today, it is one of the liveliest outdoor dining scenes in the city – with more than 10 new restaurants, bars and cafes, employing nearly 500 people. Stone Street owes its success to many people – including Mayor Giuliani and the Downtown Alliance, who put in those cobblestones. But the person who deserves a lot of the credit is a guy who grew up working in his father Harry’s restaurant here in Lower Manhattan: Peter Poulakakos.
“In 2002, Peter and his partners opened a coffee shop and a pastry shop on Stone Street, followed by an Irish pub the next year. Only in New York could a guy named Poulakakos open an Irish pub. But we’re glad he did – and Stone Street is now a downtown Restaurant Row.
“Lower Manhattan is full of new restaurants and bars because it is full of new residents. Over the past 10 years, the number of people living in Lower Manhattan has nearly doubled. In fact, Lower Manhattan has added more people over the past 10 years than Atlanta, Dallas, and Philadelphia combined. In 2001, no one could have believed that that would happen. There are now more people living in Lower Manhattan than at any time since 1920, and many of them are in new housing that has been created through a combination of public and private investment.
“For example, let’s head to the corner of Greenwich and Murray Street, where the City and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation helped make possible a new residential tower with 77 affordable apartments and 220 market rate condos, as well as a new Whole Foods, Bed, Bath and Beyond and Bank of America.
“In the first couple of years after the attacks, federal tax credits were critical to convincing people to make the move downtown – but when those credits expired, the good news is people kept coming. Why? Well, let’s ask someone.
“The diaper district. Thank you, Leigh. And you hit the nail on the head: Lower Manhattan is now a place not only for office workers but for families.
“So let’s take a look at a few of the parks Leigh was talking about, starting with Pier 25 on the Hudson River. Ten years ago, debris from the World Trade Center site was put on a barged and shipped out of the City from Pier 25. Today, Pier 25 is a beautiful new addition to Hudson River Park, with beach volleyball courts, a kids’ soccer field, and a mini-golf course.
“Pier 25 is a great example of Lower Manhattan’s re-birth – and the revitalization of our waterfront. If we head over to the East River, we can walk along the new East River Esplanade, which we just opened this summer. And if we keep walking, just before we get to the re-built Staten Island Ferry Terminal, we’ll see the Battery Maritime Building that we restored and re-opened – with a community space, hotel, and rooftop restaurant still to come. From there, we can hop a ferry to Governors Island and enjoy one of the most beautiful and historic waterfront parks in the world. How many of you have not been to Governors Island? You’ve got to go! You can picnic, ride a bike, tour the forts, see public art, and hear live music. Ten years ago, none of that was possible.
“Since 9/11, we’ve invested more than $260 million in park construction and expansion – and you can see the results not only along the water but at small green islands like Titanic and Tribeca Parks, at popular attractions like Imagination Playground, an interactive playground we created in partnership with architect David Rockwell and the LMDC. We built all of these parks because parks are magnets for people.
“But for Lower Manhattan to become a magnet for families, we also needed to create more first-rate schools. So let’s stop by two of our new public schools, starting with Millennium High School. The Department of Education opened Millennium High School in 2002 – with critical support from private donors. Today, it is one of the highest-performing high schools in the City, with A’s on its progress reports and a graduation rate of 99 percent. Since 9/11, we have opened a number of new schools downtown and added more than 4,000 new classroom seats.
“This week, the newest school is opening in the stunning new Frank Gehry building just east of City Hall. At 76 stories, it is the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere – and having a school at its base makes it an even more powerful symbol of Lower Manhattan’s rebirth. I’m glad to say that Frank is with us here today. Frank, you are a genius, and thanks for everything you do for the City. And we’re honored that he, and so many world-class architects, have wanted to be part of the post-9/11 renaissance we see all across our city.
“Now, let’s keep walking, and as we do, keep in mind that much of what is new in Lower Manhattan is actually beneath your feet. Over the past 10 years, we’ve invested $165 million in restructuring streets, and $127 million to replace 20 miles of water mains – some of which were 100 years old. That infrastructure is crucial to attracting private sector investment. It may not be sexy – or even visible – but it’s critically important to our future.
“As we walk north, we’ll pass the reconstructed Columbus Park in Chinatown, where Chinese immigrants continue to come to find opportunity, and where New Yorkers and tourists continue to come to find great soup dumplings and dim-sum. Sorry: dim-sum’s not included in this tour.
“And we’ll now head over to an organization that, though less than ten years old, is already an international institution – the Tribeca Film Festival. In the wake of the attacks, Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatkoff founded the Festival to help spur an economic and cultural revitalization downtown – and has it ever. It’s pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into our economy, and it’s put Lower Manhattan on the map as a community for filmmakers and artists of every kind. Today, our film and TV industry is stronger than ever, and there is more space devoted to arts and culture in Lower Manhattan than there was on September 10th, 2001 – places like Poets House in Battery Park City.
“Now, let’s make our way back downtown, past some of the 19 new hotels that have opened since 9/11, to our final stop: the World Trade Center site. Ten years ago this Sunday, this became the scene of the biggest rescue and recovery effort in American history – and thanks to thousands of people who toiled at the site day and night for months on end, the site was cleared sooner than anyone had believed possible. The men and women who worked on the site did so out of love of country – and love of our city. These heroes put aside concerns about their own health, and we must never forget that, we must never forget them, and we must always be there for them when they need us.
“As they toiled away, New Yorkers began to consider what to do with the site. There were many different ideas – and many strong opinions. Some believed that the entire site should become a memorial. Others did not think anything should be built because the market for downtown office space had collapsed. But we had a responsibility to look out not one year, not one decade, but hundreds of years. We had to design a memorial that would stand the test of time – and design the space that our city would need to grow and prosper. And I believe that history will record that we accomplished both.
“Of course, the rebuilding of the site has not been easy – far from it. This is the most complex construction site in the world, with two railroads running through it. And the march of progress on the site has not always been straight. It never is. But standing there today, we see 1 World Trade Center making its way up to 104 stories. We see 4 World Trade Center rising above 40 stories. We see 7 World Trade Center open for business.
“And we see a profoundly inspiring memorial that honors every person killed at the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, and every person killed on 9/11 – in New York, at the Pentagon, and near Shanksville. That includes the 343 members of the FDNY, 23 members of the NYPD, and the 37 members of the Port Authority Police Department.
“We will never forget the devastation of the area that came to be known as ‘Ground Zero.’ Never. But the time has come to call those 16 acres what they are: The World Trade Center and the National September 11th Memorial and Museum.
“There are many people who deserve credit for the progress at the World Trade Center, starting with the guy who never hesitated to rebuild: Larry Silverstein. The Port Authority’s refusal to allow the 2008 financial crisis to derail the rebuilding was crucial, and its Executive Director, Chris Ward, has done an absolutely outstanding job in managing the rebuilding and sticking to deadlines. We also owe a special thanks to our partners in labor, especially Gary LaBarbera and the construction and trade workers who are on the site as we speak – and have been there for 10 years.
“There are far too many people to thank for the progress we’ve made at the site and across Lower Manhattan, including all our City agencies and Deputy Mayors, but a few more must be mentioned: President Bush, Senators Schumer and Clinton, and Congressman Jerry Nadler. Together, along with the entire Congressional delegation, including Congresswoman Maloney, they delivered the critical support that we need. Our comeback would not have been possible without the leadership of Governor Pataki, Mayor Giuliani, Speaker Silver, and all our partners in Albany and in the City Council, including Speaker Christine Quinn. We also owe a big debt of gratitude to the leadership of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, especially to John Whitehead. John Whitehead was there for our country on the beaches of Normandy, and there for us again on the shores of Lower Manhattan.
“The list could go on forever: Joe Daniels and all those who have supported the Memorial and Foundation; the Downtown Alliance, the members of Community Board 1, all the business leaders who committed to Lower Manhattan, especially Ken Chenault and American Express, Seth Waugh and Deutsche Bank, and Hank Paulson and Goldman Sachs, all of which built their new headquarters here.
“The businesses and people who moved to Lower Manhattan did so knowing that the area would remain a terrorist target. But they refused to live in fear – and they knew that New York City has the finest Police Department in the world. Over the past decade, thanks to the leadership of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, we have built the best counter-terrorism operation of any police force in the world, which has thwarted at least 13 potential terrorist attacks on our City. And let me be very clear: We will continue doing everything possible to prevent another attack and keep New Yorkers safe.
“Of course, we do not know what the next 10 years will bring. Or even the next 10 days. But we know that we have turned a corner – we know that. And no matter what happens – earthquake, hurricane, or any other disaster – we know how we will respond.
“Over the next 10 years – come hell or high water – I fully expect that Lower Manhattan will continue to grow as a neighborhood, as a business district, as a creative community and as a destination for visitors. There will be more parks and recreation, more housing and schools, more shops and transit, more world-class architecture, and more arts and culture – including, I hope, a beautiful new performing arts center at the new World Trade Center. And – most of all, as New Yorkers from Chinatown to Cambria Heights continue to feel the effects of the national recession – there will be more jobs for more people on every step of the economic ladder.
“Now, as leave the World Trade Center site, let’s head across the street and make one final stop: St. Paul’s Chapel. St. Paul’s somehow or other escaped the terrorist attacks unharmed. Not one window was even cracked. In the weeks and months that followed, thousands of people descended on St. Paul’s to post expressions of their grief to help support the recovery workers and help get our city back on its feet. By standing strong for us in our hour of need, St. Paul’s became more than a house of worship and more than a shrine to those we lost. It became a symbol of the resilience and resolve that has defined our city and country since its earliest days.
“On April 30th, 1789, when George Washington walked from Federal Hall to St. Paul’s Chapel on the day of his inauguration as President of the United States, he did not know what lay ahead for our land. But he had faith in the spirit of the American Revolution. He had faith in the principles of the American Constitution. And he had faith in the strength of the American people.
“Over the past years, we have kept that same faith, even in our darkest hours. We have kept faith in our city, in our country, and in each other. And we have kept faith in our civic values – remembering that here in Lower Manhattan, the City’s oldest neighborhood, where Jews and Catholics and others were once unable to congregate openly – we honor our nation’s founding ideals, and those who have fought and died under our flag, by ensuring that our freedoms can be fully and equally expressed – by everyone.
“This Sunday, as we reflect back on the past, let us remember not only the agony and anguish of the attacks but how we channeled our pain into something positive and powerful. Let us remember not only the day that time stood still – but the decade we have spent recovering, rebuilding, and renewing. Let us remember not only how the Towers fell, but how we rose up – determined to defend our freedoms. And let us remember that when we unite as Americans, and when we put patriotism ahead of partisanship, there is no challenge that this country can’t meet. That – that is the ultimate lesson of our past decade.
“And I believe the ultimate way we can honor those we lost is to apply that lesson to all the challenges our nation faces. So that the legacy of 9/11 will be felt not just here in Lower Manhattan but across each and every one of our 50 states for decades and centuries to come.
“Thank you, and God bless our great City.”