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Vision For 21st Century Lower Manhattan

by Gotham Gazette Staff, Dec 12, 2002
 

Remarks by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg given at the Regent Wall Street Hotel

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Good morning.

It´s great to be here at the Regent—host to some of New York´s most important moments during the last year.

This is where we held the reception for the members of Congress after their historic joint session commemorating 9/11.

It´s where President Bush gave a significant speech on corporate responsibility.

And today, it´s where I want to outline a vision—for a New Beginning for Lower Manhattan.

Next week, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation will make public seven proposals for the future of the World Trade Center site—the product of months of work by some of the best design teams in the world.

What you will see, will be very different from the six site plans that were presented last summer. Some of these new designs make eloquent statements about what happened on 9/11; they truly are capable of instructing and inspiring future generations. Some speak of hope -- and renewal -- more powerfully than any words can. Some boldly restore the skyline - in ways that say, in no uncertain terms, this is New York -- and the terrorists didn´t win.

Some do all three.

For this, we must thank the LMDC -- led by John Whitehead and Lou Tomson -- who have worked so closely with Governor Pataki and me…with the Port Authority…and with the many individuals and groups who have a rightful stake in what gets built at the World Trade Center site.

But no matter how magnificent the best design for the 16 acres of the World Trade Center site proves to be, it must be complemented by an equally bold vision for all of Lower Manhattan – a New Beginning for Lower Manhattan – that meets the needs of all of New York City…and of the entire region.

We cannot afford to assume, that what goes on the 16 acres will itself guarantee a bright future for Lower Manhattan.

We´ve done that before.

When the World Trade Center was first built, it was hailed as a cure-all for everything that plagued Downtown. True, it came, over time, to embody the spirit of Lower Manhattan. It was commercially bustling -- and an international icon. That´s why the terrorists destroyed it.

But, if we are honest with ourselves, we will recognize that the impact on our City was not all positive. The Twin Towers´ voracious appetite for tenants --weakened the entire Downtown market. The underground mall, while popular, detracted from the vitality of the streets that surrounded it by siphoning pedestrians away from above-ground stores.

The World Trade Center did not – as its objective was – increase employment below Canal Street. In the 1970s, 22% of all Manhattan jobs were Downtown. By 2000, that had declined to just over 19%. The number of jobs Downtown, during that period, actually declined by 64,000. And similarly -- with tourism -- before 9/11, only 25% of all tourists to New York came Downtown. Today, in the city that never sleeps, much of Lower Manhattan goes to bed promptly at 6 o´clock.

Of course, it wasn´t just the World Trade Center that contributed to this decline. We have underinvested in Lower Manhattan for decades. It´s been seventy years since we built a new transit line Downtown. There is far less open space here than in other places around the City. There aren´t enough schools either.

The time has come -- to put an end to that, to restore Lower Manhattan to its rightful place as a global center of innovation -- and make it a “Downtown for the 21st Century.’

To do so, we have much to build on.

First, there´s tradition.

Lower Manhattan has always been where ideas were first tried… opinions first expressed… news first spread. Our first president was inaugurated here. Our harbor was the port for the first steam-powered ferry. When Thomas Edison first turned on streetlights, he did it in Lower Manhattan. New York´s first subway began directly under City Hall. The original Great White Way was Downtown. At a long-gone buttonwood tree on Wall Street, the first American stock was traded.

From the very beginning, Lower Manhattan was open to anyone who had a dream - and was willing to work. Just 22 years after it was first settled, 18 languages were already spoken here. This mixture of peoples and ideas -- fueled by dreams -- fed the competitive fires that made Lower Manhattan give birth to the greatest city in the world.

It was no accident that the Statue of Liberty was placed off the Battery. And it was no accident that Lower Manhattan has witnessed the construction of the world´s tallest building -- nine times -- culminating in the World Trade Center itself.

Moving forward, Lower Manhattan must become an even more vibrant global hub of culture and commerce, a live-and-work-and-visit community for the world. It is our future. It is the world´s second home.

On its streets, conversation in every conceivable language should hum: parents talking with their kids on the way to school along Greenwich Street in the morning… Businessmen negotiating on Exchange Place in the afternoon… Novelists and artists arguing at cafes, looking out across the East River at night.

To make it that place, people who reflect all the diversity and drive of New York, have to live, work, and visit Downtown. The public sector´s role -- is to catalyze this transformation -- by making bold investments -- with the same sense of purpose and urgency that allowed us to clean up the World Trade Center site months ahead of schedule, and hundreds of millions of dollars under budget. And to be effective, those investments must in turn trigger a response by the private market, that will – through joint public/private initiatives -- create the kind of Lower Manhattan we want.

There are three types of investments the public sector must make now:

Those that (1) connect Lower Manhattan to the world around it; (2) those that build new neighborhoods; and (3) those that create public places appealing to the world.

Let´s start with Connecting Lower Manhattan

Lower Manhattan´s competition to be a global center isn´t just Midtown -- or even Chicago or Los Angeles. Increasingly, it is London, and Berlin, and Hong Kong. In this worldwide competition, easy access is becoming more and more important. We must invest in making downtown more accessible -- both to the rest of the world, and to residents of the metropolitan region.

New York is one of the few premier international cities without a direct mass transit link between its airports and the city center. In London, the time from the city center to the airport is as little as 30 minutes. In Hong Kong, it is 23 minutes. In Berlin, it will soon be 17 minutes. In New York City…it is often one hour or more – and don´t even ask if it is a Friday night or raining!

To make Lower Manhattan a global center, we must have direct, one-seat airport access. Imagine stepping onto an AirTrain or PATH car, and thirty minutes later walking to your gate at JFK or Newark.

How? By extending the AirTrain system -- from JFK through a new tunnel to Lower Manhattan -- and by extending the PATH train -- from Newark´s Penn Station to Newark Liberty Airport. This can be done -- and it must be done.

A big concurrent benefit is for commuters to Lower Manhattan. These same airport connections work both ways – both for travelers and for locals. A new tunnel between downtown and JFK, will connect Downtown to any Long Island Railroad train at Jamaica.

The need is obvious. In 1932 -- the last time mass transit was added to Lower Manhattan -- 63% of residents of the region lived in New York City. Today, that figure is down to 37%. We need to get our workforce from where they now live, to where they still work.

Similarly, via water -- over the last year, we have invested heavily in ferry stations to bring more people to Lower Manhattan -- from more places -- more conveniently. We need to continue to do so, with investments in links to other parts of the five boroughs, regional service to the suburbs, connections to tourist destinations, and potentially to LaGuardia airport. For passengers who are coming from Westchester and Connecticut, we need a new ferry—linked to MetroNorth by a new station on the Harlem River—to bring train riders Downtown 5-10 minutes faster than today, and with a very pleasant ride.

And on the roads: today, over 3,500 buses travel daily to Lower Manhattan, clogging already congested streets. We can´t do without their capacity – but don´t have storage for them mid-day. A new bus parking facility will help keep the streets free and clear by giving those buses a place to go between entering and leaving the City.

Lastly, underground: Construction has begun on a new PATH station at the World Trade Center site, and will begin soon on a new transit hub at Fulton and Broadway. The new stations will untangle the knot of fifteen subway lines that converge Downtown, and then connect to the PATH and AirTrain. Those two stations should also be exhilarating gateways that lift everyone´s eyes and spirits—whether it´s a visitor from Buenos Aires seeing Lower Manhattan for the first time ever, or a commuter from New Jersey seeing it for the first time that day. These stations can be the first of Lower Manhattan´s many additions to the landmarks of tomorrow.

Second… we must Build New Neighborhoods

While the number of people who live below Chambers Street has grown significantly—from 12,000 to 20,000 in the past ten years—other than Battery Park City, for residents there isn´t a there there. No real supermarkets… not enough open space… and not enough schools. And for that reason, families make up a much smaller proportion of the Downtown community than in other communities throughout the city.

With targeted investments, we can catalyze the creation of two exciting new neighborhoods south of Chambers Street -- one near Fulton Street, east of Broadway -- and the other, South of Liberty street, west of Broadway.

Along Fulton Street, the focus for this neighborhood will be a new public square called Fulton Market Square. If you walk along Fulton Street today you´ll see 99-cent stores and vacant storefronts. Fulton Market Square, established as a public market, can begin the transformation of that street, into a great place to shop, see a movie, look at art, or just people-watch.

Re-establishing Fulton Street through the World Trade Center site would make it a thoroughfare that stretches from river to river. With ferry stops on each end -- and two major transit hubs in the middle -- Fulton would join Broadway as one of the two great arteries in Lower Manhattan.

As to the area south of Liberty: Let´s start with the spot where today cars dip into the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. We propose to build a new park – called Greenwich Square – on a deck over the mouth of the tunnel. Roughly comparable in size to Gramercy Park, Greenwich Square will be one of the City´s green gems.

And to knit the area south of Liberty to Battery Park City, we will make West Street—today, a loud and desolate six-lane highway—into a promenade lined with 700 trees, a Champs-Elysees or Commonwealth Avenue for Lower Manhattan -- as welcoming to walkers as to drivers.

Residents of Battery Park City will finally be able to walk directly east, along an extended Exchange Place, to reach the Financial District and the East River.

To further encourage families to move Downtown, we must build a public library branch and enough schools to accommodate new students, while alleviating crowding in existing Downtown classrooms. And wouldn´t it be great if these schools were part of the World Trade Center site? I think nothing is more appropriate to remember those we lost than to build something for their childrens´ future.

We also have to connect these new Downtown neighborhoods to the existing communities of Chinatown and the Lower East Side. To develop innovative ways to do that, we´ve already formed an inter-agency task force that includes City Planning, the NYPD, and the Department of Transportation. The LMDC also has issued a request for proposals on how we can better link these neighborhoods to the rest of Downtown.

Thirdly…we need to Create New Public Places

New York is New York because it has majestic places open to the public -- that convey the unique thrill of being here. Let me take you on a land-bound Circle Line tour of a re-imagined Lower Manhattan.

Starting at the prow of Lower Manhattan—the Battery—we will build on the successes of the Battery Conservancy, by dramatically reshaping Battery Park to turn what is today just a place to pass through -- into a destination in itself -- a Sheep´s Meadow for Lower Manhattan.

We´ll also extend the plaza in front of a renovated Battery Maritime Building—one of the City´s most beautiful and, unfortunately, most dilapidated structures.

Water Street, today a canyon between office towers, will become a beautiful tree-lined boulevard. On the area´s historic side streets, pedestrians will glimpse something new and marvelous along the East River. It could be, as envisioned by Community Board 1 and the Downtown Alliance, a relaxed place to stroll, with open tables shaded by umbrellas on a sunny day …

Or, if we are bolder -- and if we can find environmentally friendly ways to build in the water -- the City could expand out onto the river, creating something new on every one of these harborside city blocks. New cultural institutions, surrounded by playgrounds, ballfields, open grass, and apartments could look out across the harbor …

Others have suggested that we stretch our imaginations further, and create a wonderland of open space, with a sea-level ice-skating rink, a garden without soil… maybe even a forest of trees.

Whatever we choose, our new waterfront will look out onto ferries crisscrossing among Battery Park, Governors Island, the new Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, even Liberty State Park in New Jersey, knitting these green spaces into a collection of open spaces that are, in total, larger than Central Park.

At the northern end of the new park along the East River, Fulton Street will stretch back to the World Trade Center site, the nucleus of the new Lower Manhattan. Anchoring the commercial and residential neighborhoods, and the restored streets would be a memorial that would put a physical shape to our grief and to our hopes for the future, and give us somewhere we can come together to share our thoughts and reflections on how September 11th affected our lives.

We can link all these places with a pathway that loops down West Street... across the Battery… up Water Street… and back across Fulton to the World Trade Center site.

Traveling around the loop could be shuttle buses, offering an easy-to-use, step-on step-off service -- free of charge. And we can examine innovative ways to manage streets and traffic Downtown, reinforcing the feeling that this is one place. Getting around easily means “community’ – and that´s what we´re trying to create.

Around that loop—only 2.2 miles long—we´ll add to the 20 cultural institutions that already exist Downtown today, creating a critical mass to draw tourists from around the world.

Cultural institutions can animate a neighborhood and define a community. Together, if we could build large-scale performing arts centers people would be on the streets 24/7. Museums – some helping to interpret the World Trade Center memorial and some devoted to already-defined missions – would give further impetus to visit New York´s heartland. And smaller arts centers, would provide much-needed studio and rehearsal space for performing and visual artists, and offer a focus for the dynamism and creativity that define the best this city has to offer.

How do we make this happen?

Done correctly, these public investments will spark a chain of private market reactions.

Over the next ten years—if we make the investments we´ve described—the number of new jobs Downtown will be twice what it would have been, justifying the need for ten million square feet of new commercial space throughout all of Lower Manhattan. New companies, in a range of industries, will grow Downtown -- strengthening the existing financial nerve center -- while diversifying it.

And, as the number of successful companies Downtown increases, Lower Manhattan will become more and more attractive to any company that prides itself on drive and creativity… needs access to a diverse international workforce… and wants its employees in an area that´s not only physically attractive, but exciting.

Many companies have already recognized this and made long-term commitments to Downtown. In fact, I am happy to announce today that Goldman Sachs is reversing its previous plan to move its equity division out of the City, and will, instead, maintain the majority of that division right here in Lower Manhattan. This is just an example of many commitments to come.

New office space will flourish along a commercial area linked by the spine of Broadway. When we finish the new transit hub at Fulton and Broadway, new office buildings and maybe even a new hotel will spring up to the east and to the south, completing the Canyon of Heroes.

As to financing, use of insurance proceeds will help to lower rents, and the new commercial construction can be completed with tax-free Liberty Bonds.

We have already proposed to the federal government a tax plan designed to lure foreign companies to relocate their headquarters to Lower Manhattan. Under the proposal, which we call the “World Trade Center Tax Incentive Zone,’ qualified companies that move their headquarters to the Liberty Zone, would be taxed as if they hadn´t relocated at all, fully protected from the increased federal taxes associated with moving to the United States.

As for housing, with the public investments we are proposing, we believe private developers, some of whom will also use Liberty Bonds, will create at least 10,000 new apartments over the next ten years – over and above the 65,000 new units I announced on Tuesday.

To encourage additional housing, we propose relaxing existing density restrictions on residential development in Lower Manhattan. And we´ll provide developers with a subsidy to make 20% of the new units Downtown affordable to people who couldn´t otherwise live in market-rate housing.

We have catalogued the costs of every one of these improvements—down to the last tree, where possible—and calculated when we would be able to make each of these investments.

We´ve estimated the total cost, in today´s dollars, to be $10.6 billion.

Most of those funds -- $8.8 billion -- will go to the infrastructure we´ve described. The connection to John F. Kennedy airport is the costliest project, the one that takes the longest, and perhaps the one most needed for Lower Manhattan´s future. This would take 9 years at a cost of just under $4 billion. Of course before we start, we must continue to examine all alternatives, including the Super Shuttle, before selecting the project that delivers the most, for the lowest price. But either way, one seat to the plane is key to our success.

Of the funds we´ve received from the federal government, we can use $5.9 billion for this plan. The Port Authority can help too, with passenger facility charges, contributions from its insurance proceeds and from some of the funds it was—before September 11th—intending to spend on the World Trade Center.

We can also use proceeds from the sale of real estate development rights over the transit hub, from Greenwich Square, the East River park, and Fulton Market Square, and taxes from construction at the World Trade Center site itself.

Finally, depending upon what happens with the land swap proposal and with the insurance dispute over one occurrence or two, we could use some of the excess insurance proceeds from the leaseholders at the World Trade Center.

In summary, we might not need any additional funds. But if we do, there´s always the potential of federal or state monies – monies we won´t need until 2009 at the earliest.

Now… this kind of far-reaching, city-changing investment of time and money isn´t going to be popular with everyone. Some people will inevitably pick on a piece of our vision they don´t like, and say we shouldn´t do any of it. Others will point to the maze of rules and regulations, policies and practices, procedures and protocols, and wonder whether we can get this done. And finally, some will just feel scared, which is natural, and they might ask how we can afford to do this at this point in the city´s history.

In fact, listen to these naysayers:

“The very idea is ridiculous.’

“The… scheme is humbug and the sooner it is abandoned the better.’

Those words appeared in the 1850s, and the idea they were talking about, the “scheme’ they derided, was the creation of Central Park. By the time the Park was completed, twenty thousand New Yorkers had carted ten million cartloads of soil by hand to create an oasis the world has never seen, before or since.

If you study New York history, you realize that it is often at the moments when New York has faced its greatest challenges that we´ve had our biggest achievements. Central Park was created on the heels of a financial panic. The subways were built, at the turn of the century, as overcrowding Downtown reached life-threatening proportions. During the Great Depression, New York set the national standard by putting its people to work building parks and highways. The Empire State Building, too, was constructed in just thirteen months during the Depression´s deepest moments.

Again today, New York must transform this City, to prepare it…for the future. We must reinvent Lower Manhattan. We must open the waterfront to the public -- not just in Lower Manhattan, but in Downtown Brooklyn, and throughout the City, wherever possible. We must provide housing for those who want to live in New York, not just in Lower Manhattan, but in all five boroughs. And we must ensure New York continues to lead in the global economy -- not just by reinventing Lower Manhattan, but by creating new business districts throughout the entire City -- including the Far West Side of Manhattan, which can, with an expansion of the Javits Center, drive the tourism industry so crucial to the future of our economy.

There might be those who doubt whether we can set aside our differences, and there might be those who doubt whether we have the stamina required to get this done. But if history teaches us anything, it´s that you should never doubt New York. Never. We can do this—because we have to.

Welcome to a New Beginning for Lower Manhattan.


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