New York Reborn

With more than 65 landmarks in six historic districts, the 3.9-squarekilometer area of Lower Manhattan is arguably the most important cultural site in the United States. Since its establishment as the Dutch Colony of Nieuw Amsterdam in 1625, New York has been a focus of American life. From its beginnings as a farming settlement and fortification, New York became the nation’s first capital and primary port of embarkation, and has, most recently, functioned as the nerve center of the American financial world. Together, the buildings of Lower Manhattan chronicle the evolution of American architecture and, in many ways, the United States itself over nearly four centuries. In the wake of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Lower Manhattan was placed on WMF’s 2002 list of the 100 Most Endangered Sites. Only weeks later, a consortium of prominent preservation organizations came together to establish the Lower Manhattan Emergency Preservation Fund (LMEPF), which was charged with safeguarding historic sites by making grants to stabilize, renovate, and restore buildings damaged by the attacks, and ensure that preservation is considered with redevelopment.

Today, these historic structures face an uncertain future with the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site. Plans for Lower Manhattan extend well beyond the World Trade Center site and include building transportation hubs, developing new neighborhoods, and creating urban streetscapes. LMEPF has just completed the most comprehensive survey to date of Lower Manhattan’s historic structures to assess the potential impact of proposed redevelopment plans on the historic fabric of the neighborhood. Although a large number of buildings in Lower Manhattan are landmarked or listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, an even larger number of important, landmark-quality buildings remain unrecognized. Of the more than 300 historic sites included on the LMEPF map, approximately 75 percent have no protection whatsoever.

The map highlights three “corridors of concern” that could be dramatically affected by the proposed plans. Each corridor’s streetscape has a distinctive texture, rhythm, and scale, established by both recognized and unprotected buildings. It is these buildings and the particular urban fabric that binds them together that create the area’s unique sense of place. It would be a terrible loss for the city if important historic buildings—as well as economic opportunities—were lost in this process. It is imperative that the public and private sectors—including the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and the City of New York—give every consideration to incorporating these sites into their overall plans. To order a copy of the map or view it online, and for update

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