Post-9/11, Wall Street Goes From Rubble to Renaissance
Less symbolic, but even more important to critics of the redevelopment, is the neighborhood's gentrification.
Rental prices welcome high-income residents. According to the Real Estate Board of New York, a one-bedroom apartment in the financial district costs a median $3,500 to $4,000 a month, much higher than the median Manhattan rental price.
Since 2001, home values in the financial district have risen 63 percent from a median $552 per square foot to $900 per square foot in 2011, according to Zillow Real Estate Research. Manhattan values overall are up 68 percent.
Pascal Couti moved into the district in 2009. He pays $3,500 a month for his studio apartment in a new luxury building.
“Every single metro line comes here, good bars, good restaurants, and we have the seaport," said the 39-year-old French citizen.
At the same time, existing residents have been priced out of the market.
“They gave us three months notice before my rent went from $1,800 to $2,700 a month. That’s when I moved,” said Howard Lam. A native New Yorker, Lam left his Battery Park one-bedroom in 2006 and relocated north to Manhattan's Stuyvesant town.
Rising prices have prompted city advisor Community Board 1 to action.
“We’re focused on building affordable housing. We engaged in the rezoning of northern TriBeCa last year. Inclusionary zoning means that when a developer is building, they get a bonus if they put in affordable housing. Now we are urging the city to build more affordable housing on other parcels of developable land,” said Julie Menin, Community Board chairperson.
The Community Board cites 11 stalled construction sites in lower Manhattan—which were moving forward until the financial crisis restricted the flow of financing—as prime spots for affordable housing development.
At this point, it's unclear where the city stands on this.
Local businesses, however, have received substantial stimulus. From the state came tax credits, worth $4,800 per employee for 2002 and 2003. But city-state efforts weren't acting alone, the federal government also pitched in.
After 9/11, the Small Business Administration—a federal agency—approved 4,761 “Economic Injury Disaster Loans.” Application deadlines extended through 2003, for a grand total of $478 million. Yet the end of the disaster program didn’t mean the end of aid.
District director for New York’s SBA, Pravina Raghavan said, “For the fiscal year 2002, average Lower Manhattan received $20.8 million lent to 131 borrowers. It keeps going up. Now, as a result of the Small Business Jobs Act, which increased limits from $2 million to $5 million, we’ve guaranteed $52 million worth of loans in that area.”
Tom Berton, native New Yorker and owner of “Manhattan By Sail,” a public sail and charter business, said, “I could not have done it without the NYSBA.” With one sailboat docked at the World Financial Center's marina, Berton started business in June 2001. But after 9/11, he was nearly out of business. “They wouldn’t let us back in until June 2002. It was a ghost town, but we kept trying,” he said.
Displaced from his apartment in the South Street Seaport and not able to get a loan from a traditional bank, Berton was approved for a $400,000 SBA disaster loan.
Today, Berton’s two-sailboat business is booming. Revenues have doubled (amounts remain undisclosed at his request) and volume shot up from an annual average of 7,000 to 40,000 passengers last year.
But others feel threatened by the rejuvenation of Lower Manhattan. Pauli Morgan, manager of Nelson Blue Bar & Grill at the South Street Seaport, is wondering whether he'll survive the reconstruction of the area called Peck Slip. The task, taken by the New York City Parks Department, is to install two new water mains and a sewer pipe.
“I understand it has to be done, but who’s going to come eat down here with the noise of jackhammers outside, and dust in the air? This is our livelihood. I sank all my money into this place, and if this doesn’t work, I’m done,” said Morgan.
The construction duration is noncommittal, but the city estimates 4.5 years. During this time, nine other restaurants, bars, and hotels all bordering Peck Slip and will be affected by its reconstruction.