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Lower Manhattan is the southernmost part of the island of Manhattan, the main island and center of business and government of the City of New York. Lower Manhattan or "downtown" is defined most commonly as the area delineated on the north by 14th Street, on the west by the Hudson River, on the east by the East River, and on the south by New York Harbor (also known as Upper New York Bay). When referring specifically to the lower Manhattan business district and its immediate environs, the northern border is commonly designated by thoroughfares approximately a mile-and-a-half south of 14th Street and a mile north of the island's southern tip: Chambers Street from near the Hudson east to the Brooklyn Bridge entrances and overpass. Two other major arteries are also sometimes identified as the northern border of "lower" or "downtown Manhattan": Canal Street, roughly half a mile north of Chambers Street, and 23rd Street, roughly half a mile north of 14th Street. Anchored by Wall Street, in Lower Manhattan, New York City functions as the financial capital of the world and is home to the New York Stock Exchange, the world's largest stock exchange by market capitalization of its listed companies.
The Lower Manhattan business district forms the core of the area below Chambers Street. It includes the Financial District (often referred to as Wall Street, after its primary artery) and the World Trade Center site. At the island's southern tip is Battery Park; City Hall is just to the north of the Financial District. Also south of Chambers Street are the planned community of Battery Park City and the South Street Seaport historic area. The neighborhood of TriBeCa straddles Chambers on the west side; at the street's east end is the giant Manhattan Municipal Building. North of Chambers Street and the Brooklyn Bridge and south of Canal Street lies most of New York's oldest Chinatown neighborhood. Many court buildings and other government offices are also located in this area. The Lower East Side neighborhood straddles Canal. North of Canal and south of 14th Street are the neighborhoods of SoHo, the Meatpacking District, the West Village, Greenwich Village, Little Italy, Nolita, and the East Village. Between 14th and 23rd streets are lower Chelsea, Union Square, the Flatiron District, Gramercy, and the large residential development Peter Cooper Village—Stuyvesant Town.
The City of New York originated at the southern tip of Manhattan Island. Dutch colonists established the first permanent European presence here in 1624, naming the settlement New Amsterdam (Dutch: Nieuw-Amsterdam) in 1626. The first fort was built at the Battery to protect New Netherland. In 1771, Bear Market was established along the Hudson shore on land donated by Trinity Church, and replaced by Washington Market in 1813. Washington Market was located between Barclay and Hubert Streets, and from Greenwich Street to West Street. The area remains one of the few parts of Manhattan where the street grid system is largely irregular. Throughout the early decades of the 1900s, the area experienced a construction boom, with major towers such as 40 Wall Street, the American International Building, Woolworth Building, and 20 Exchange Place being erected.
In the 1950s, a few new buildings were constructed in lower Manhattan, including an 11-story building at 156 William Street in 1955. A 27-story office building at 20 Broad Street, a 12-story building at 80 Pine Street, a 26-story building at 123 William Street, and a few others were built in 1957. By the end of the decade, lower Manhattan had become economically depressed, in comparison with midtown Manhattan, which was booming. David Rockefeller spearheaded widespread urban renewal efforts in lower Manhattan, beginning with construction One Chase Manhattan Plaza, the new headquarters for his bank. He established the Downtown-Lower Manhattan Association (DLMA) which drew up plans for broader revitalization of lower Manhattan, with the development of a world trade center at the heart of these plans. The original DLMA plans called for the "world trade center" to be built along the East River, between Old Slip and Fulton Street. After negotiations with New Jersey Governor Richard J. Hughes, the Port Authority decided to build the World Trade Center on a site along the Hudson River and the West Side Highway, rather than the East River site.
Through much of its history, the area south of Chambers Street was mainly a commercial district, with a small population of residents—in 1960, it was home to about 4,000. Construction of Battery Park City, on landfill from construction of the World Trade Center, brought many new residents to the area. Gateway Plaza, the first Battery Park City development, was finished in 1983. The project's centerpiece, the World Financial Center, consists of four luxury highrise towers. By the turn of the century, Battery Park City was mostly completed, with the exception of some ongoing construction on West Street. Around this time, lower Manhattan reached its highest population of business tenants and full-time residents.
Since the early twentieth century, Lower Manhattan has been an important center for the arts and leisure activities. Greenwich Village was a locus of bohemian culture from the first decade of the century through the 1980s. Several of the city's leading jazz clubs are still located in Greenwich Village, which was also one of the primary bases of the American folk music revival of the 1960s. Many art galleries were located in SoHo between the 1970s and early 1990s; today, the downtown Manhattan gallery scene is centered in Chelsea. From the 1960s onward, lower Manhattan has been home to many alternative theater companies, constituting the heart of the Off-Off-Broadway community. Punk rock and its derivatives emerged in the mid-1970s largely at two venues: CBGB on the Bowery, the western edge of the East Village, and Max's Kansas City on Park Avenue South. At the same time, the area's surfeit of reappropriated industrial lofts played an integral role in the development and sustenance of the minimalist composition, free jazz, and disco/electronic dance music subcultures. The area's many nightclubs and bars—though mostly shorn of the freewheeling iconoclasm, pioneering spirit, and do-it-yourself mentality that characterized the pregentrification era—still draw patrons from throughout the city and the surrounding region. In the early twenty-first century, the Meatpacking District, once the sparsely populated province of after-hours BDSM clubs and transgendered prostitutes, gained a reputation as New York's trendiest neighborhood.
The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the gay community against a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. They are widely considered to constitute the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBT rights in the United States.
On September 11, 2001, two of four hijacked planes were flown into the Twin Towers of the former World Trade Center, and the towers collapsed. The 7 World Trade Center was not struck by a plane, but collapsed because of heavy debris falling from the impacts of planes and the collapse of the Twin Towers. The other buildings of the World Trade Center complex were damaged beyond repair and soon after demolished. The collapse of the Twin Towers caused extensive damage to surrounding buildings and skyscrapers in Lower Manhattan, and resulted in the deaths of 2,606 people, in addition to those on the planes. Since September 11, most of Lower Manhattan has been restored. However, many rescue workers and residents of the area developed several life-threatening illnesses and some have already died.
A memorial at the site was opened to the public on September 11, 2011. A museum opened in 2014. At the time of its completion in 2014, the new One World Trade Center, at 1,776 feet (541 m) and formerly known as the Freedom Tower, will be the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, while other skyscrapers are under construction at the site.
The Occupy Wall Street protests in Zuccotti Park, formerly known as Liberty Plaza Park, began in the Financial District on September 17, 2011, receiving global attention and spawning the Occupy movement against social and economic inequality worldwide.
On October 29 and 30, 2012, Hurricane Sandy ravaged portions of Lower Manhattan with record-high storm surge from New York Harbor, severe flooding, and high winds, causing power outages for hundreds of thousands of Manhattanites and leading to gasoline shortages and disruption of mass transit systems. The storm and its profound impacts have prompted the discussion of constructing seawalls and other coastal barriers around the shorelines of Manhattan and the New York City metropolitan region to minimize the risk of destructive consequences from another such event in the future.
Perhaps Lower Manhattan's most renowned landmark is now the former World Trade Center site. Before the September 11 attacks, the Twin Towers were iconic of Lower Manhattan's global significance as a financial center. The projected visitors to the future World Trade Center skyscrapers and the 9/11 memorial are 6 million people, and the new office towers (including One World Trade Center) will restore the Lower Manhattan skyline and give it the title of the third largest central business district in the United States, behind Midtown Manhattan and the Chicago loop.
The area contains many historical buildings and sites, including Castle Garden, originally the fort Castle Clinton, Bowling Green, the old United States Customs House, now the National Museum of the American Indian, Federal Hall, where George Washington was inaugurated as the first U.S. President, Fraunces Tavern, New York City Hall, the New York Stock Exchange, renovated original mercantile buildings of the South Street Seaport (and a modern tourist building), the Brooklyn Bridge, South Ferry, embarkation point for the Staten Island Ferry and ferries to Liberty Island and Ellis Island, and Trinity Church. Lower Manhattan is home to some of New York City's most spectacular skyscrapers, including the Woolworth Building, 40 Wall Street (also known as the Trump Building), the Standard Oil Building at 26 Broadway, and the American International Building.
Among the commercial districts of Lower Manhattan no longer in existence was Radio Row on Cortlandt Street, which was demolished in 1966 to make way for construction of the former World Trade Center.
Downtown in the context of Manhattan, and of New York City generally, has different meanings to different people, especially depending on where in the city they reside. Residents of the island or of The Bronx generally speak of going "downtown" to refer to any southbound excursion to any Manhattan destination. A declaration that one is going to be "downtown" may indicate a plan to be anywhere south of 14th Street—the definition of downtown according to the city's official tourism marketing organization—or even 23rd Street. The full phrase Downtown Manhattan may also refer more specifically to the area of Manhattan south of Canal Street. Within business-related contexts, many people use the term Downtown Manhattan to refer only to the Financial District and the corporate offices in the immediate vicinity. For instance, the Business Improvement District managed by the Alliance for Downtown New York defines Downtown as South of Murray Street (essentially South of New York City Hall), which includes the World Trade Center area and the Financial District. The phrase Lower Manhattan may apply to any of these definitions: the broader ones often if the speaker is discussing the area in relation to the rest of the city; more restrictive ones, again, if the focus is on business matters or on the early colonial and post-colonial history of the island.
As reflected in popular culture, "Downtown" in Manhattan has historically represented a place where one could "forget all your troubles, forget all your cares, and go Downtown," as the lyrics of Petula Clark's 1964 hit "Downtown" celebrate (although the artist later clarified that she naively believed Times Square to be "downtown," and was the actual inspiration for the hit single). The protagonist of Billy Joel's 1983 hit "Uptown Girl" contrasts himself (a "downtown man") with the purportedly staid uptown world. Likewise, the chorus of Neil Young's 1995 single "Downtown" urges "Let's have a party, downtown all right."
Lower Manhattan is the fourth largest business district in the United States, after Midtown Manhattan, the Chicago Loop, and Washington, D.C., and will regain the title of third after the completion of 1 World Trade Center, and the three other skyscrapers at the site. Lower Manhattan is home to the New York Stock Exchange, on Wall Street, and the corporate headquarters of NASDAQ, at 165 Broadway, representing the world's largest and second largest stock exchanges, respectively, when measured both by overall average daily trading volume and by total market capitalization of their listed companies in 2013. Wall Street investment banking fees in 2012 totaled approximately US$40 billion.
Other large companies with headquarters in Lower Manhattan include:
Prior to the September 11 attacks, One World Trade Center served as the headquarters of Cantor Fitzgerald. Prior to its dissolution, the headquarters of US Helicopter were in Lower Manhattan. When Hi Tech Expressions existed, its headquarters were in Lower Manhattan.
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After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Lower Manhattan lost much of its economy and office space. However, the area's economy has rebounded significantly since then. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation has consummated plans to rebuild downtown Manhattan, by adding new streets, buildings, and office space. A memorial at the site was opened to the public on September 11, 2011. A museum is currently under construction at the memorial and was scheduled to open in September 2013. At the time of its completion in 2014, the new One World Trade Center, formerly known as the Freedom Tower, will be the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, at 1,776 feet; while other skyscrapers are under construction at the site.
Lower Manhattan has been experiencing a baby boom, well above the overall birth rate in Manhattan, with the area south of Canal Street witnessing 1,086 births in 2010, 12% greater than 2009 and over twice the number born in 2001. The Financial District alone has witnessed growth in its population to approximately 43,000 as of 2014, nearly double the 23,000 recorded at the 2000 Census.
The city hall and related government infrastructure of the City of New York are located in Lower Manhattan, next to City Hall Park.
Several major transportation projects, including the Fulton Center and the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, are under construction in Lower Manhattan. The World Trade Center Transportation Hub, to be completed by 2015, is predicted to serve over 200,000 passengers daily and will be the third largest train station in New York City.
The New York City Fire Department currently operates 16 firehouses, organized into 4 Battalions in Lower Manhattan. The following companies are quartered below 14th Street: Engine 4, Engine 5, Engine 6, Engine 7, Engine 9, Engine 10, Engine 15, Engine 24, Engine 28, Engine 33, Engine 55, Ladder 1, Ladder 3, Ladder 5, Ladder 6, Ladder 8, Ladder 9, Ladder 10, Ladder 11, Ladder 15, Ladder 18, Ladder 20, Squad 18, Marine 1, and the Chiefs of the 1st Division, 1st Battalion, 2nd Battalion, 4th Battalion, and 6th Battalion. The New York City Fire Museum is also located in Lower Manhattan, the site of a former firehouse, on Spring Street.
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