When I toured lower Manhattan by bike a few days ago, starting in the West Village, riding downtown to Battery Park along the Hudson River and coming back uptown by way of Ground Zero, I was struck by how much the neighborhood has changed in the past nine years.
Battery Park City, built on top of the landfill dug out during the trade center’s construction, is one of the city’s finest assets. Here, the built environment echoes natural surroundings and the river is allowed to dominate. Riverfront esplanades, marinas, parks, playgrounds and abundant sculptures dot the 92-acre neighborhood. In my opinion, the parks, maintained by the Battery Park City Parks Conservancy, rank among the best urban green space on the planet.
September 11, 2001 left both a literal and figurative hole in the neighborhood, and many people will never be able to move past those horrors. But Lower Manhattan is rising like a Phoenix, bringing with it a breath of resilience, perseverance and spectacular beauty.
What used to be called the Freedom Towers — now named “One World Trade Center” — are a bustle of construction, as seen in this photo, taken from the back of St. Paul’s Chapel , which is part of the Episcopal Parish of Trinity Church. The historic church, directly across from Ground Zero, has a full schedule of memorial services this weekend. Beginning tonight at 6 p.m. with an all night vigil and labyrinth walk, the ringing of the “bell of hope” at 8:46 a.m. on Saturday and an ecumenical service followed by Prayers for Healing. The historic and intrepid church, which was a place of refuge and a center of mourning, continues to provide a focal point.
But even if you don’t attend a service or visit Lower Manhattan this weekend, try it some other time. You might just find that healing can also come from tipping a hat — or bike helmet — to one of New York’s most elegant and, despite its tragic history, peaceful neighborhoods.