Volume 19 | Issue 25 | November 3 - 9, 2006

progress report/ mayor's office

Downtown's population will double with a $30-billion investment

By Daniel L. Doctoroff

The lowest commercial vacancy rate in five years. Over 10,000 housing units opened or under construction. Retailers such as Whole Foods, Barnes & Noble, BMW, Hermes, Tiffany's and over 31 new restaurants. These are just a few of the signs of Lower Manhattan's dramatic recovery since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The area's recovery has been far stronger than any of us could have imagined five short years ago. And there are no signs that the pace of recovery is letting up. For example, over the next year, over 6,000 more housing units will be completed or substantially underway. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will continue the nearly $850-million renovation of the Fulton Street Transit Center. And we will continue to create new parks and open space and renovate existing ones throughout Lower Manhattan.

Most dramatically, we will begin implementation of our $150 million plan to improve public access to the East River waterfront (See article, page 32). This plan will create new amenities for public use along the East River including piers, open spaces and an enhanced esplanade and complete a critical link in the Manhattan greenway system, allowing for a continuous bikeway and walkway around the island.

Lower Manhattan's recovery, at times, hasn't been perfect or pretty or seamless. Yet, particularly with respect to the World Trade Center site, the past year has marked a critical turning point. The renegotiated World Trade Center lease has resulted in fixed deadlines with real penalties for missing those deadlines and a reallocation of resources that ensures the site will be built out as swiftly and completely as possible. The memorial was redesigned in a manner that lowered its cost, but retained its essential elements. Most importantly, construction began on the memorial and Freedom Tower.

In 2007, construction will accelerate on the World Trade Center site as the Port Authority begins preparations for the construction of Towers 2, 3 and 4 along Church St. and the much-anticipated Calatrava PATH terminal. Setting the stage for the broader redevelopment of the World Trade Center area, the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center will complete the deconstruction of 130 Liberty St. and the New York State Dormitory Authority will complete the deconstruction of Fiterman Hall.

All this change will not occur without some measure of inconvenience and the need to make tough decisions. Vehicular traffic, which is already severe, will worsen and the city is considering measures that will encourage New Yorkers to place greater reliance on the multiple forms of mass transportation that service Lower Manhattan. To make the World Trade Center site the world-class destination that has been envisioned, and to broaden the diversity of offerings in Lower Manhattan, we must reenergize our efforts to bring cultural uses to the site of the Performing Arts Center. And we will need to pursue creative ways to expand the educational opportunities available to the children of Lower Manhattan's ever expanding residential population.

In the end, all this effort will have been worth it. In total, more than $30 billion will be invested in more than one square mile -- the single biggest concentration of construction activity in New York's history -- to make Lower Manhattan the first 21st century Downtown. By 2011, almost every street south of Chambers St. will be rebuilt, including the transformation of West St. from a barren highway to an elegant promenade filled with shade and activity. There will be roughly 17,000 new residential units and nearly 70,000 people will live Downtown -- double the number that lives there today. Two new schools and a library will serve the needs of an increasingly family-oriented community. New shops, restaurants, and cafes are following along, making Lower Manhattan one of the hottest retail markets in the city.

Over $1 billion will have been invested by the public and private sectors in more than 60 cultural institutions or projects -- everything from dance, to art, to theater to alternative circus performances, plus, of course, the World Trade Center memorial and museum, which is destined to be one of the most visited places in the world.

By 2011, new or rebuilt parks will offer residents and workers an endless array of recreational opportunities or places to relax. A ring of green will wind around the tip of Lower Manhattan and a network of more than 20 new and improved parks will have been built along the narrow streets.

Lower Manhattan has come a long way in five short years. There is much work left to be done. However, when these improvements are completed, Lower Manhattan will stand as the embodiment of New York's unconquerable spirit and of a new century of growth and vibrancy.

Daniel L. Doctoroff is the deputy mayor for economic development and rebuilding.

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