September 12: Community and Neighborhood Recovery at Ground Zero

September 12: Community and Neighborhood Recovery at Ground Zero

September 12: Community and Neighborhood Recovery at Ground Zero

September 12: Community and Neighborhood Recovery at Ground Zero

Excerpt

Lower Manhattan broiled while Battery Park City was balmy. The contrast was evident in the tempo and temperature of the streets, sidewalks, and parks of the two adjacent neighborhoods. I pushed my daughter’s stroller along the crowded sidewalks, making my way from Lower Manhattan to Battery Park City. It was a hot May day eight months after the Trade Center attacks of 2001. The narrow streets of downtown New York City clattered with the area’s daily rhythms. Delivery trucks clogged Chambers Street, filling the air with dry exhaust. Heat reflected off the asphalt rutted by the constant passage of buses and taxis. Battery Park City was very different on days like this; a strong breeze blew off the Hudson River across the park and promenade and continued along largely traffic-free streets.

Though the two neighborhoods were intimately connected, their physical and social organization differed. Lower Manhattan, like much of the city, had long presented inequality at closer quarters, adjoining rich and poor, powerful and powerless. In the street-level mall of a bank office tower on Wall Street, bank employees hurried toward a subway entrance while heavily dressed homeless men took an air-conditioned respite at café tables. On the southern tip of Manhattan, American and foreign tourists picked their way through immigrant vendors selling New York City T-shirts, art, and souvenirs to wait under the sun for a ferry to the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island. The heart of the Financial District, in front of the New York Stock Exchange, was preternaturally quiet behind roadblocks, security, and newly arranged concrete and steel barriers. Occasionally a trader in a color-coded suit jacket emerged from the Exchange for a cigarette. On Nassau Street, the most racially diverse street in the Financial District, workers from the surrounding financial firms, Pace University, and government buildings walked down the narrow pedestrian street, past mobile phone and jewelry stores to the lunch shops on the corners. Well below ground level at the vast World Trade Center site, construction equipment roared and beeped as it continued the slow process of clearing rubble from the site in anticipation of an ambitious redevelopment program. Each image was a reminder . . .

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