The Recovery

By Avlon, John | Newsweek, September 12, 2011 | Go to article overview

The Recovery


Avlon, John, Newsweek


Byline: John Avlon

Ten years later, lower Manhattan has come roaring back.

Lower Manhattan is a living symbol of civic resilience; it is evidence of how free people can triumph over fear. The neighborhood surrounding Ground Zero has become the fastest-growing in New York City.

Daniel Libeskind is part of the influx. The Bronx-raised designer of the Freedom Tower was living in Berlin on 9/11: "I was determined to live in lower Manhattan. And I'm so happy because it's really coming back to life ... It's a kind of renaissance."

The 16-acre wound where the World Trade Center once stood is just north of where the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam formed in the 1600s. On these streets, George Washington took the oath of office, and Congress proposed the Bill of Rights. Between 1890 and 1930, the tallest buildings in the world were downtown. In the second half of the 20th century, businesses moved to midtown, but by the 1990s, Lower Manhattan once again was a bustling commercial and residential hub. Then came 9/11.

The collapse of the towers was equivalent to a 2.4 on the Richter scale. The fires at Ground Zero burned for three months.

"A blanket of dust that looked like snow covered this whole area," recalls Peter Poulakakos, whose family runs a half-dozen lower Manhattan restaurants. "There were Hummer military vehicles, the National Guard, nobody walking around. It was a war zone."

"It was a time when people said lower Manhattan would never survive," says Community Board 1 chair Julie Menin. "They said no one will live downtown, they won't work downtown, and they're certainly not going to visit downtown. If you look at those three areas, we have absolutely proved them wrong. …

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