Decrease Manhattan Rebounded After 9/11, however the Pandemic Erased the Good points

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Lower Manhattan Rebounded After 9/11, but the Pandemic Erased the Gains

The Amish Market opened in 1999 in the shadow of the World Trade Center, one of the few grocery and delicatessen stores for residents and workers on the southernmost tip of Manhattan. Two years later, the complex's 110-story twin towers collapsed in the 9/11 attacks, showering the store with fiery rubble and ashes.

Closed after the attacks, the store reopened about five years later in a new location a few blocks away. It joined a triumphant comeback as Lower Manhattan was reborn into one of the largest business districts in the country, a vibrant residential neighborhood, and a tourist destination with the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.

The Amish Market was also booming, with its workforce doubling to 200 and weekly sales rising to over $ 160,000.

But all of that growth fizzled out in a matter of days in an entirely different crisis that wiped out many of Lower Manhattan's profits since 2001.

When the coronavirus hit New York in March 2020, the neighborhood abruptly emptied and Amish Market revenue plummeted to $ 24,000 in just a week – not enough to pay rent, payroll, and overheads. The shop lagged until it closed for good last September.

More than 350 retailers in Lower Manhattan have closed in the past 18 months. New malls built after the terrorist attacks had few buyers, and landlords have sued retailers for not paying rent. Seven hotels have closed permanently, others have yet to reopen.

The number of jobs in the private sector has shrunk to 221,000, fewer than in the months before 2001. In the first seven months of 2021, the daily number of passengers in the busiest underground stations in the city center reached only 6.3 million passengers Down 82 percent over the same period period in 2019, according to a New York Times analysis of subway ride numbers.

More than 21 percent of lower Manhattan office space is available for rent, a record high that is more than double the pre-pandemic vacancy rate, according to Newmark, a real estate services company.

"When the terrorist attacks happened, it was just a matter of how long it would take to rebuild," said Mike Jording, the former general manager of Amish Market. “This is a different enemy – it's longer and worse. It's a slow death. "

The gloom that has pervaded downtown for much of the past year – compounded by the rise of the Delta variant, which has hampered the city's recovery – is reminiscent of the days when the ruins of the towers were still smoldering and some people predicted that Lower Manhattan would never recover.

No one would ever want to work or live in a skyscraper again, critics said. Within a few months of September 11, 2001, around 4,500 residents of the neighborhood moved out.

But the emigration soon turned into a wave of newcomers, lured by federal financial incentives to live downtown. By 2005, the population of Lower Manhattan had grown to over 43,000, a 25 percent increase since 2000.

Most of the newcomers were young college graduates, many of whom were employees of the major financial institutions who stayed downtown after the attack. They filled apartments in buildings converted from offices and visited a growing cluster of bars and restaurants in the square mile neighborhood on the lower edge of Manhattan.

Over the next two decades, Lower Manhattan was not just restored but reinvented, with at least $ 20 billion in public and private investment helping turn it into a thriving neighborhood. Recreation became a symbol of the city's resilience.

New buildings were built, including the symbolic centerpiece, the One World Trade Center, next to which the towers once stood. At 1,776 feet tall, it is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. Three more towers have been erected on the site, as well as a monument to cascading waterfalls and a $ 4 billion transportation hub connecting new shopping and dining destinations under an architectural landmark called the Oculus.

"Twenty years is a very long time, and downtown should remember everything that happened 20 years ago," said Peter Poulakakos, who owns several restaurants and other businesses in Lower Manhattan. "At the same time, they should recognize how far they have come in the last 20 years."

At the end of 2019, more than 253,000 people were working in private sector jobs, surpassing the number just before the attack, according to Alliance for Downtown New York, a business improvement group. More than 900 companies had relocated to Lower Manhattan since 2005, including some of the city's largest and most influential corporations such as Condé Nast, Morgan Stanley, and Spotify.

"We love it down there," said Tyler Morse, CEO of MCR Hotels, whose offices are on the 86th floor of One World Trade Center. "The downtown area has great physical features and great public transportation."

Tourists flocked to the area at levels not seen before 2001 that drew 14 million visitors annually and fueled a hotel construction boom.

But the pandemic has taken a lot of life from Lower Manhattan.

Manveen Singh said she had no choice but to shut down Tandoor Palace, her 27-year-old Indian restaurant on Fulton Street, after the pandemic took away the downtown office workers she relied on. After the initial citywide lockdown, she tried to reopen but said, "There wasn't a soul in Lower Manhattan."

Ms. Singh fears that the district will not recover any time soon. "If businesses don't come back in full swing," she said, "downtown won't come back in full swing."

Companies are continuing to give up their downtown office space and are looking for tenants to take over their leases. JPMorgan Chase tries to offload 700,000 square feet of office space on Water Street. And Advance Magazine Publishers, the media company owned by Condé Nast, withheld nearly $ 10 million in rent during a dispute with its landlord at One World Trade Center.

Advance began paying the arrears later this summer in a resolution with the landlord, Durst Organization, who agreed to help Advance find another tenant who had over 200,000 square feet of office space it no longer wanted. can take over, announced the company.

While Durst owns around 10 percent of One World Trade Center, it also manages and rents the building on behalf of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the main owner. The agency took in $ 243 million in rent last year for its buildings on the World Trade Center site, including One World Trade Center, $ 58 million less than expected.

"One World Trade Center is our home and we are proud to contribute to its legacy," said Roger Lynch, CEO of Condé Nast.

Eight years ago, the advertising company Barker moved to 30 Broad Street, an Art Deco skyscraper that was one of the tallest buildings in the world when it opened in 1932. But none of his employees will have the company's two-story penthouse in 18 months.

However, the company's founder, John Barker, said he had continued to pay office rents – more than $ 1 million as of March 2020 – as a symbol of his commitment to the neighborhood. He wants to use the offices again, but doesn't know when that might be possible.

"This is where New York started and is the commercial hub that created a nation," said Barker, who was just a few minutes' walk from the office in 2017. "We clearly believe in the future of Lower Manhattan."

Despite the tremendous challenges Lower Manhattan faces, including the rise in teleworking, Carl Weisbrod, a former chairman of the New York City Planning Commission, says the area is well positioned to recover.

Mr. Weisbrod, the founding president of the Alliance for Downtown New York, noted that efforts that began before 2001 to attract people to the neighborhood should help boost the local economy as companies postpone and return plans Tourists stay away.

“We have to be careful about jumping to conclusions about how much this latest crisis will change human life and the life of the city,” said Weisbrod. What we have seen throughout history is the allure of cities, the allure of density, and the allure of human talents to exchange ideas in one central place. "

On the streets of Lower Manhattan, workers expressed a mixture of resignation and optimism.

On a hot Wednesday afternoon, Irma Gibb was recently sitting on a concrete bench near the south pool of the 9/11 Memorial and missing work at her home in St. Albans, Queens, which had served as her office since March 2020 and works in the city's human resources department Homeless Assistance, had just started coming to the office in World Trade Center 4 on a weekly basis. She said there were only three people in the office, it used to be more than 250.

"It has not recovered," she said of the neighborhood, citing reduced opening times for restaurants and "all shops that are closed". She especially misses the Century 21 discount department store, where she used to shop before the chain filed for bankruptcy in September 2020.

In the mall below the Oculus, pedestrian traffic was low while indie rock played through the speakers. Brik + Clik, which opened in December, attracted shoppers with carefully arranged shelves of artisanal goods – from vegan cheese curd to a charcoal detox face wash.

The store's co-founder, Hemant Chavan, said activity at the Oculus had increased this spring with the city reopening, the Tribeca Festival in June, more PATH and subway riders, and the return of some tourists.

"We had constant pedestrian traffic," said Mr Chavan.

Mr. Poulakakos closed all five New York locations of Financier, a pastry shop, including two downtown. He and his partner have also closed Pier A Harbor House, a restaurant near Battery Park.

But Mr. Poulakakos is already preparing to replace a financier on Stone Street in Lower Manhattan with a coffee shop. Cobbled and a destination for al fresco dining long before the pandemic became so fashionable, Stone Street is showing signs of regaining its former vigor, he said.

"The idea of ​​everything going back to normal with the snap of a finger is not going to happen," he said.

During a recent visit to Lower Manhattan, Mr. Jording, the former manager of the Amish Market, noticed more people shopping, eating and walking around. But nothing like before the pandemic.

“The streets used to be crowded, bumper to bumper,” he said. "If we opened, there wouldn't be enough shops."

Sean Piccoli contributed the reporting.

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