Downtown

brooklynbridge

This week I received the MOST exciting email in my inbox.

“The Maiden Lane location of Just Salad has reopened!”

I do like their salads, but that’s not the point.

The point was that another downtown business had recovered after Hurricane Sandy.

Even if you’re paying attention to the recovery effort in New York and New Jersey, you may not know that downtown Manhattan, specifically the financial district, is still nowhere near 100% up and running. A number of both residential and commercial buildings endured so much water damage that, nearly two months later, they are not inhabitable. On Maiden Lane alone, there are at least a dozen retail locations that are still closed. That’s a dozen storefronts with staff temporarily out of work. And who knows how many families are still displaced.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Downtown often gets a bad rep for being cold and void of personality. Yes, it is home to the stock exchange and government agencies and lots of other boring corporations. But it’s also incredibly rich in history and home to lots of students, families and artists.  And, besides all that, downtown will always have a special place in my heart.

I went to college at Pace University, which is right by City Hall and the Brooklyn Bridge. In a way, downtown represents my first shot at independence. I moved into the dorms when I was barely 18 and had zero life experience beyond rural Massachusetts. Downtown was the first neighborhood I learned as a timid freshman who was afraid to ride the subway alone. Each week of my first semester I’d venture out a few streets further towards the seaport or Tribeca or Little Italy, slowly expanding my knowledge of the city. When I was bored or felt suffocated by my tiny dorm room I took walks across the Brooklyn Bridge and back (It was pretty impossible to get lost – and it was free!). I bought a bagel from the same Park Row street vendor every day to the point where he started to recognize me and remember my order. It was the first time I felt what it was like to be a regular and have a usual.

And when the Twin Towers were hit on 9/11, I felt like my home had been destroyed. And, as the rest of the world watched downtown rebuild, I took pride in my neighborhood’s resilience.

I think that’s part of why all the covered windows and boarded up doors have been getting to me. It reminds me too much of those dark days downtown that followed the attack. Not that I think the two events should be compared at all. I just hate to see my neighborhood and its people hurting.

There’s no doubt in my mind that downtown will eventually get back to 100%. I’m certainly not the only one who is invested in downtown and is committed to seeing it flourish.

Question: What neighborhood is your home? Is it the place where you grew up, or somewhere else?

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