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BY SHELDON SILVER | Each time I travel the streets of my hometown, I am inspired by the incredible progress we have made in rebuilding our Lower Manhattan community over this last decade. Surely, ten years ago, no one was predicting the incredible comeback we have made or the bright future that is so clearly visible on our horizon.
The most high-profile sign of our progress is One World Trade Center, which has reached 100 stories and will become the tallest building in New York City. It serves as a beacon signaling our courage and our determination to remain the most resilient, the most diverse, the most innovative and the most dynamic community in the city and, indeed, the world.
One World Trade has attracted world-renowned firms such as Conde Nast, and 7 World Trade is now fully leased, delivering an unmistakable vote of confidence in our future as the business and financial capital of the world. Taller in its spiritual stature, the 9/11 Memorial plaza is a profound and deeply moving tribute to the terrible loss of life we suffered. Recently, I had the privilege of hosting a community day at the Memorial, where I joined many of my neighbors in paying my respects to the casualties of 9/11 and reflecting on the enormous impact this tragedy had on our entire community.
There is no greater symbol of our renewal and hope than the opening of new schools. As part of my ongoing effort to expand educational opportunities for our Downtown families, my School Overcrowding Task Force helped create and open the Spruce Street School, which is operating in state-of-the-art space inside New York’s tallest residential building. As I greeted students on their first day of school and saw their smiling faces, it occurred to me that there is no greater demonstration of people’s faith in Lower Manhattan than the influx of young families who are transforming our community. This is why I have worked so hard to continue opening new schools to meet the needs of our growing population.
Thanks to the hard work of my task force members, we will be greeting excited kindergartners in September at the brand new Peck Slip School, which will incubate at the Tweed Courthouse. I am so proud of our work in facilitating the sale of the old Post Office building for use as a new school, and proud of our efforts to get that school expanded before it even opened. Due to the immense popularity of Lower Manhattan, more new schools will be needed, so I am working hard to see that additional seats are added.
Lower Manhattan has become an ideal environment for young families. Nothing is more delightful than walking along Broadway or down Maiden Lane on a Sunday afternoon and seeing parents pushing strollers on their way to the park. Business is catching on as well, as we see with the expansion of Century 21 and with our iconic electronics retailer, J&R, opening a whole new store focused on kids.
Building more schools is a critical step in the revitalization of our community and is one of many steps we are taking. We must also build the infrastructure and the amenities that will keep our neighborhoods attractive to families.
A key to making sure we have the 24/7 mixed-use community we all want is to improve our public transportation. As part of this year’s state budget, we approved funding for the final three years of the MTA’s capital plan, which will ensure the completion of the Fulton Street Transit Center, our “Grand Central Station” for Downtown. This new transit hub will make subway connections easier and more efficient.
To continue improving our neighborhoods for our residents, we are also renovating and expanding our parks. This spring, the newly refurbished Pearl Street playground will open, joining DeLury Park, Titanic Park and Imagination Playground as recently transformed public spaces. The first stretch of the East River Esplanade is open and being enjoyed by so many of my neighbors. This is not just a beautiful park, it is a crucial connection linking Battery Park to East River Park, furthering our goal of opening parkland all along Manhattan’s waterfront.
Another key component of Lower Manhattan’s revitalization is retail. I have pushed for retail development at the World Trade Center and I have been assured that approximately 450,000 square feet of retail will be built at the site.
I am pleased to report that the state sales tax on clothing and shoes for items under $110 has been completely eliminated, something which I proposed back in 1995. This tax break will give families much-needed relief when it comes to clothes shopping for their children and will serve as a boost to the local economy from Orchard Street to Chinatown to the Financial District.
What has driven success over the last 10 years is what will drive our success in the decade to come, the commitment, the passion, the perseverance and the indomitable spirit of New Yorkers. As a lifelong resident of Lower Manhattan, I have never been more proud or more excited to be a part of this community, than I am today. We are the face of a resurgent city. We are the authors of one of the greatest comeback stories in history … and the best is yet to come.
Sheldon Silver is the Assembly Speaker for the State of New York.