Op-Ed: A New Manhattan After 9/11

By USA Today - SEP. 07, 2011

The following Op-Ed by Mayor Bloomberg appeared in USA Today on Wednesday, September 7, 2011.

There are moments in all of our lives when we look back and reflect on life — at graduations, weddings, births and funerals. All of us experience these moments at different points in our lives. But rarely does the whole country experience such a moment together, all at once. This Sunday, we will.

We will look back and remember the horror and heroism of Sept. 11, 2001. We will remember the shock and grief and anger we felt. And most especially, we will remember the lives we lost — the people we knew, the stories we heard, the faces we saw. This year at the World Trade Center site, thanks to the generous support we've received from people across the country and around the world, we will open a beautiful and inspiring memorial to all the victims: those who died at the World Trade Center, at the Pentagon and at Shanksville, Pa. — as well as those who were killed in the 1993 WTC bombing.

In the wake of the attacks, we knew that we could not bring back those we lost, but we could honor their lives by bringing back our city — and achieving that mission became an outlet for our grief, an expression of our determination to defy the terrorists, and a reflection of our patriotism.

I was elected mayor of New York less than two months after the attacks, when the ruins at Ground Zero were still smoldering. At the time, the conventional wisdom held that New York City, and particularly Lower Manhattan, would take decades to recover — if it ever could. Businesses would leave in droves, tourists would stop coming, and residents would seek haven in the suburbs or leave the region entirely. It was supposed to be the end of Lower Manhattan as we knew it — and it was, but not in the way so many had predicted.

For decades, Lower Manhattan had been a business district and a financial capital, but not much of a neighborhood. By 6 p.m., stores would shut down, people would disappear and the area would resemble a ghost town. Many New Yorkers did not want to live in Lower Manhattan because there were too few shops, restaurants, grocery stores, schools and parks.

In 2002, we set out to change all that by re-envisioning Lower Manhattan as a 24/7 neighborhood and making the investments that would allow New Yorkers to bring it to life — and they have, in spectacular fashion.

Over the past 10 years, Lower Manhattan's population has nearly doubled. More than 15,000 homes have been built, including the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere, a 76-story tower beside the Brooklyn Bridge. Eight new school facilities have opened. More than 30 acres of new parkland have been or soon will be created. New theaters and performing arts venues have opened. Ferry service has been added. New hotels have opened. And there are now more businesses operating in Lower Manhattan than there were prior to the attacks of 9/11.

At the site of the attacks itself, 7 World Trade Center has been rebuilt and is open for business; 1 World Trade Center is 70 stories on its way up to 105 stories; 4 World Trade Center is 40 stories and rising higher every day. Those towers are a testament to our nation's strength and resolve.

This Sunday, as we reflect on our nation's darkest day, let us remember too the decade that has followed — how we refused to bow to fear and fanaticism, how we united to bring our city and country back, and how just it is that as Osama bin Laden lies dead, Lower Manhattan is more alive than ever.