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12-Sep: Community and Neighborhood Recovery at Ground Zero

Gregory Smithsimon
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 293
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    The collapse of the World Trade Center shattered windows across the street in Battery Park City, throwing the neighborhood into darkness and smothering homes in debris. Residents fled. In the months and years after they returned, they worked to restore their community. Until September 11, Battery Park City had been a secluded, wealthy enclave just west Wall Street, one with all the opulence of the surrounding corporate headquarters yet with a gated, suburban feel. After the towers fell it became the most visible neighborhood in New York. This ethnography of an elite planned community near the heart of New York City's financial district examines both the struggles and shortcomings of one of the city's wealthiest neighborhoods. In doing so, September 12 discovers the vibrant exclusivity that makes Battery Park City an unmatched place to live for the few who can gain entry. Focusing on both the global forces that shape local landscapes and the exclusion that segregates American urban development, Smithsimon shows the tensions at work as the neighborhood's residents mobilized to influence reconstruction plans. September 12 reveals previously unseen conflicts over the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan, providing a new understanding of the ongoing, reciprocal relationship between social conflicts and the spaces they both inhabit and create.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-7112-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-ix)
  4. [Map]
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-32)

    LOWER MANHATTAN BROILED while Battery Park City was balmy. The contrast was evident in the tempo and temperature of the streets, sidewalks, and parks of the two adjacent neighborhoods. I pushed my daughter’s stroller along the crowded sidewalks, making my way from Lower Manhattan to Battery Park City. It was a hot May day eight months after the Trade Center attacks of 2001. The narrow streets of downtown New York City clattered with the area’s daily rhythms. Delivery trucks clogged Chambers Street, filling the air with dry exhaust. Heat reflected off the asphalt rutted by the constant passage of buses...

  6. 1 Creating Battery Park City: Building a Landmark on Landfill
    (pp. 33-71)

    BETWEEN 1960 AND the present, New York changed from a working-class, industrial city of specialized manufacturers to a global city more singularly cast than ever as a command-and-control center of global capitalism. In the same period, American cities went through equally dramatic social transformations. Places like New York experienced convulsions of population loss as whites fled to the suburbs and African Americans migrated from the South to become majorities or pluralities in many northern cities. New York went through a wave of disinvestment by businesses, banks, and landowners, then experienced a flood of new money as those same players saw...

  7. 2 Real Privilege and False Charity
    (pp. 72-91)

    WHEN ELITES PLANNING Battery Park City successfully excluded affordable housing from the neighborhood, demands for such housing did not disappear. Eventually, excess revenue from Battery Park City was slated to build and renovate a considerable quantity of affordable housing—but it was to be far from Battery Park City itself. This chapter examines the real privileges that accrued to people who lived in Battery Park City because of the special arrangements made by the city and state for this gilded citadel, and sets them against the false charity of the affordable housing plan.

    Battery Park City had an unacknowledged sibling....

  8. 3 Residents, Space, and Exclusivity
    (pp. 92-117)

    THE YEAR AFTER the first residents moved into Battery Park City, the esplanade along the Hudson River opened to the general public. Instead of celebrating the new waterfront park, residents were resigned. “You can’t stop the rest of Manhattan from enjoying it,” said one man. “The only thing you hope is that they’re not going to find out about it too quickly.”¹ From the start, residents had developed a definition of their community that was inconsistent with the use of their public spaces by others.

    The parks remained relatively isolated from the rest of the city, so residents incorporated that...

  9. 4 Oasis to Epicenter: Battery Park City in the Year after September 11
    (pp. 118-138)

    MANY RESIDENTS WERE in their apartments the Tuesday morning that planes struck the towers of the World Trade Center. Like thousands of Battery Park City residents, Eleanor Rosen, who had moved to Battery Park City with her late husband when they first came to the city twenty years ago, could see the towers from her window.¹ But she first realized what had happened when her niece called around nine. “I was restless. It seemed awfully noisy, noisier than usual. But how would it occur to me that this would happen?” she asked. “Soon after that one of my neighbors came...

  10. 5 Every Day Is September 11: Memorial Plans for Community Spaces
    (pp. 139-161)

    IN THE YEAR after the Trade Center attacks, Battery Park City residents worked to revitalize their community. While most said they wanted to return to “normal,” there were new developments they couldn’t ignore. The neighborhood had been thrust in the spotlight. Redevelopment plans for Ground Zero, along with the large number of people making pilgrimages to Lower Manhattan, had the potential to radically alter Battery Park City’s separation from the city at large. Residents in a neighborhood that had always enjoyed its reputation as an isolated “suburb in the city” had to choose between restoring that isolation or using redevelopment...

  11. 6 Class and Community Organizations
    (pp. 162-192)

    WHETHER BATTERY PARK City residents had sufficient community organizations depended on how far away an observer stood. From the greatest distance, critics of Battery Park City had long assumed that the “simulated” citadel neighborhood would have only a thin imitation of community life. Residents just outside Battery Park City, however, openly envied how organized the neighborhood looked to them. Speaking at a public viewing of competing plans for the World Trade Center memorial, one Lower Manhattan resident said she “envied” Battery Park City because they were more organized. “All they have to do is put a flier up in one...

  12. 7 Definitely in My Backyard: Welcome Nuisances
    (pp. 193-220)

    BATTERY PARK CITY residents not only addressed changes going on within their neighborhood but brought their conception of the community, shaped by the physical design of the space, to bear on redevelopment projects that affected their connection to the city. After the destruction of the World Trade Center, government, nonprofit, and private interests began developing reconstruction plans and holding public forums to propose new designs for Lower Manhattan. Though Battery Park City residents were interested in all of the aspects of redevelopment that would go on across the street from them at the Trade Center site, they mobilized in response...

  13. 8 Conclusion: The Suburban Strategy
    (pp. 221-238)

    HUXTABLE WAS EERILY prescient, and not only in the disquieting comparison of the towers to tombstones. The twentieth century was not only an important historical landmark, both globally and nationally, but also a transitional period. Taken more generally, the gigantism that Huxtable observed—the oversized ambition of global capitalism—was a tremendous and hubristic gamble. The promise made by twentieth-century capitalism of greater material luxury, abundance, and modern convenience did indeed need to provide a tremendous payoff in exchange for the human and material toll it took on the environment and on capitalism’s workers, bystanders, and consumers. The Trade Center...

  14. Appendix A: “September 11, 2001”: Reprinted from the Battery Park City Broadsheet
    (pp. 239-247)
  15. Appendix B: Methods
    (pp. 248-252)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 253-278)
  17. Index
    (pp. 279-284)
  18. About the Author
    (pp. 285-285)