Ground Zero: The old neighbourhood's gone ...

Ten years after the 9/11 attacks, the area around Ground Zero is rising like a phoenix from the ashes. But the old locals have gone and a new, richer set has moved in. Even timeless local institutions like Bubby’s (pictured) are changing.


As new skyscrapers spring up around Ground Zero, New York City officials say the area is rising – albeit a bit slowly – like a phoenix from the ashes, a new neighborhood for a forward-looking New York. But those from the old neighborhood may not agree.


A decade after the 9/11 attacks, developers, architects and New York City officials are promising a vibrant neighbourhood in downtown Manhattan that will connect communities and promote culture.

But behind the official spin, there has been disquiet in the last 10 years over how the surrounding neighbourhood is being gentrified, and the costs and subsidies involved in attracting new tenants to the vast site.

Bubby's, a cafe just around the corner from Ground Zero, has been here since1992 and is a neighbourhood institution. On the day of the attacks, free coffee and pancakes were supplied to firefighters as well as locals.

Founder and owner Ron Silver, however, believes that as frightened locals moved out 10 years ago, Wall Street money moved in to snap up real estate at bargain prices.

“That created a lot of opportunity for people to make a lot of money," said Silver. "There are a lot of bankers down here, a lot of Wall Street traders, and these lawyers and people who make money out of fearful situations."

The Chinese are coming

Ground Zero has become a very upscale neighborhood. Disgraced former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, for instance, rented a $50,000-a-month town house just around the corner while he was facing sexual harassment charges earlier this year.

And the area itself is changing. In order to lure businesses back generous subsidies were provided, which have seen companies like magazine giant Condé Nast agreeing to move into the new building at 1 World Trade Center.

China has been showing interest too. A publicity video by a Chinese real estate company shows how the six floors it has leased at the new World Trade Center, now under construction, will be transformed into a Chinese garden. The China Center will promote Chinese businesses in New York and house companies that are expanding rapidly into the United States.

Xue Ya, president of the China Center, says her firm is looking to the future. “We’re thinking of five years later … downtown [Manhattan] becomes the new landmark, the new World Trade Center, and for Chinese business people to come here," she said.

If only the site itself had been so organised – construction delays, cost over-runs and arguments about everything from the memorial to the metro that will run underneath has plagued the site. Ten years later, the neighborhood may be coming back, but it is a work still far from complete.

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