The Financial District: A Tourist Magnet With a ‘Village-Like Quality’

Christina Roccos and her husband, Martin Smithmyer, looked “all over the city for an interesting space that was not boxy,” Ms. Roccos said, before they settled, in 2008, on a two-bedroom, two-bathroom penthouse with a landscaped terrace large enough for “three huge kiddie pools,” she said. “It was like having a backyard.” They bought it for $1.9 million.

“We knew nothing about the financial district, the quirkiness of it, at the time,” she said, referring to the neighborhood at the southern tip of Manhattan, which was then in the early stages of huge residential growth, following the exodus by financial institutions after Sept. 11, 2001. Another growth spurt followed Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

“We felt like pioneers, all of us who moved here at about the same time and had children about the same age,” said Ms. Roccos, 54. She and her husband, who is 45, have a 12-year-old daughter and 5-year-old twins. After the twins were born, the couple, who own an international biotech company, rented out their first apartment and moved into a larger one nearby, which they rent.





One World Trade

Center Observatory

West side hwy.


St. Paul’s Chapel



Fulton Center






Financial District

Federal Hall

New York

Stock Exchange

South Street



F.D.R. DR.


Coenties Slip

Pier 17



East River

1/4 mile

By The New York Times

“There’s an unusual sense of community here, a village-like quality that I haven’t found anywhere else,” said Ms. Roccos, who also has a design business. “But there’s been a lot more development, so I think that will change.”

Indeed, much of the financial district, or FiDi, can feel like a construction zone, with new high-rises going up and former office towers continuing to be converted. Along with some 75,000 residents and 300,000 office workers, 14 million tourists a year flow through its narrow streets and sidewalks, many designed in the 1600s, according to a recent report. The area is generally busier during the day, on weekends and in the summer.

That bustle barely bothers most residents, said Simona Stanica, a broker with Douglas Elliman Real Estate, who moved to the area in 2008. “It’s very community-oriented, very downtown-local. In local restaurants, you feel like you’re home.”

“It’s peaceful here,” said Nina Colosi, a composer, teacher, curator and multimedia producer, who, like many residents, knows where to find peace. “Walking along the waterfront is just fantastic. It’s relaxing and meditative.”

CreditCalla Kessler/The New York Times

Ms. Colosi, who is over 65 and has two grown children, started renting in the neighborhood in 2011, and recently bought an apartment, a loft studio for $617,500. It has nice views, she said, including “a peek of New Jersey” and the park around the Statue of Liberty. “It’s quiet for those who want to think, and there’s activity right outside the door.”

She also loves the American history that surrounds her, she said, going back to the Colonial era: “This is where people came to create their lives. It has a beautiful energy.”

Victoria Raikes, a lawyer with two sons, 8 and 11, loved the quiet when she moved to FiDi in 2006. “It was a beautiful refuge,” she said. But after a few moves in the neighborhood, she lived across from the New York Stock Exchange, a tourist magnet — and had a new baby. “I felt like I was in the Bermuda Triangle,” said Ms. Raikes, 45.

She moved to quieter Battery City Park, but once she was divorced, she said, “I wanted back in the mix.” Just over two years ago, she paid $2.365 million for a two-bedroom, three-bathroom apartment on Wall Street, with views of the East River, Brooklyn and the Atlantic Ocean. She likes the schools, as well as the family activities on Governors Island, a short ferry ride away, and the new restaurants and concerts at the South Street Seaport.

“There’s always something going on,” she said. “It’s a really fun community.”


CreditCalla Kessler/The New York Times

Commonly used parameters for the financial district are Chambers Street and the Brooklyn Bridge to the north, the West Side Highway and Battery Park on the west and the East River on the east.

Visitors encounter densely packed historic spots, including Federal Hall, which the National Park Service calls the birthplace of American government; Trinity Church, where Alexander Hamilton and other notables are buried; St. Paul’s Chapel, where George Washington worshiped after taking his first presidential oath at Federal Hall; the “Charging Bull” statue; and the New York Stock Exchange (now facing “Fearless Girl,” a statue that used to stand in front of the bull). Newer spots include the National September 11 Memorial and Museum; One World Observatory; the newly refurbished South Street Seaport; and the Fulton Center and the Oculus, transit hubs that include retail malls.


CreditCalla Kessler/The New York Times

Add to the growing tourist parade an influx of families and other residents, and you get “a change in the dynamic of the neighborhood,” said Patrick M. Kennell, a resident since 2005 and president of the Financial District Neighborhood Association. In March, the association released “Make Way for Lower Manhattan,” a report that describes construction debris, scaffolding, street vendors and other obstructions. “Bikers, pedestrians and even delivery vehicles struggle to find a place to maneuver along the street,” according to the report, which makes specific recommendations about how to slow traffic, improve walking corridors, add pedestrian plazas, clean up trash and generally make the area safer and more pleasant.

Many of the suggestions will soon be implemented, said Mr. Kennell, a lawyer. “So much money is being pumped in by government entities,” he said. “We’ll get these problems fixed. I don’t worry about it.”

In the meantime, he and his family are enjoying new amenities like the expanded seaport area and Governors Island, with its bike paths, art activities and playground known as the Yard. “The kids go crazy,” said Mr. Kennell, who has two sons, 9 and 11. “It’s awesome.”


CreditCalla Kessler/The New York Times

The median price for a condo in 2019 through early July was $1.0675 million, said Gill Chowdhury, an agent at Warburg Realty. The median price for a co-op was $750,000.

“About 80 percent of the sales are condos, higher than most areas,” Mr. Chowdhury said, because most residences are in new or newly converted buildings that are condos. Although this year’s condo median price surpassed the 2018 median of $1,053,333, he said, builders were hoping it would go even higher.

A general downturn in housing prices across the city — less pronounced in this neighborhood than in many others — plus a glut of new apartments have depressed prices, he said.

The financial district is cheaper than most surrounding areas and “a great value for what you get, whether you rent or buy,” said Mr. Chowdhury, who recently signed a lease on a one-bedroom in a building with doormen, a fitness center and common outdoor space, for $3,600 — about what he paid for a walk-up with no amenities on the Lower East Side.

As of late July, The New York Times’s real estate listings showed 384 homes for sale. Asking prices ranged from a condo studio on Pine Street for $480,000 to a five-bedroom, eight-and-a-half-bathroom penthouse on Barclay Street for $39.95 million.

Of 611 apartments for rent, the highest priced was a six-bedroom, six-bathroom condo unit on Liberty Street for $35,000 a month; the lowest priced, at $2,300, was a studio in a condo at 1 Wall Street Court.


CreditCalla Kessler/The New York Times

New restaurants include Danny Meyer’s Manhatta and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Fulton, on Pier 17 of the South Street Seaport, owned and operated by the Howard Hughes Corporation. The pier also has other restaurants and bars, a concert series and activities.

Residents said they enjoy the iPiC movie theater on Fulton Street, where waiters bring food and drinks to their seats. A new outpost of McNally Jackson Books, a popular independent bookstore, will open at the Seaport in August, said Sarah McNally, the owner.

And small businesses are thriving, said Maria Ho-Burge, who recently opened Primp NYC, a “beauty and wellness” salon on Beekman Street. Ms. Ho-Burge, a former music-industry executive with two young children, has lived in several financial district rentals since 2005. She sometimes meets other parents for dinner on Front Street, a cobblestone area with outdoor seating, she said, though it is often crowded with tourists, especially in the summer.

Nearby is a concrete-and-bluestone park called Peck Slip Plaza, where she meets friends at restaurants around the edges. “The kids run around on their scooters or bikes, or just run around,” she said. “The parents call the children in when they’re ready to eat.”


CreditCalla Kessler/The New York Times

The Peck Slip School P.S. 343 is in the South Street Seaport area and has 442 students in prekindergarten through fifth grade. According to the 2017-18 School Quality Snapshot, 69 percent of students met state standards in English, compared with 46 percent citywide, and 80 percent met state standards in math, compared with 47 percent citywide.

The Spruce Street School P.S. 397, at the base of a Frank Gehry-designed apartment building, has 555 students in prekindergarten through eighth grade. In 2017-18, 80 percent met state English standards, compared with 47 percent citywide, and 82 percent met state standards in math, compared with 43 percent citywide.

P. S. 89 is also in the neighborhood, and another school is scheduled to open in 2022 in a landmark house on Trinity Place that will be incorporated into a new condo tower at 77 Greenwich Street.

Many trains make stops in the financial district, including the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, E, J, R, W, Z and PATH. A ride to Midtown can take 15 to 20 minutes.


CreditCalla Kessler/The New York Times

When the United States Women’s World Cup champions paraded up Broadway on July 10, they were following a long tradition. The route, from the Battery to City Hall, is known as the Canyon of Heroes, with granite markers in the sidewalks naming the many honorees.

The Downtown Alliance, which places the markers, lists 206 ticker-tape parades. The first occurred in 1886, when Wall Street workers began throwing paper tapes from office windows to celebrate the unveiling of the Statue of Liberty. More than a million people participated, although members of the New York State Woman Suffrage Association did not. They protested from a nearby boat because, while a female symbol of liberty was being celebrated, women did not have the right to vote.

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Published at Wed, 07 Aug 2019 14:49:44 +0000