New York [part 2]: Lower Manhattan

Finally I’m posting some travel tips and pics from my trip to New York. Read part 1 here and look out for part 3!

Lower Manhattan, also known as the Financial District, is at the bottom tip of Manhattan Island (the part of the island once called New Amsterdam). The grid disintegrates into narrower windy streets (some are even unnumbered!) and a little quirk and charm emerges. Can also be appreciated from a bridge or boat …

9/11 Memorial

Most memorials are monuments that impose themselves on the view (think of the Cenotaph in London); this monument is a piece of space, the emptied foundations a reminder of what once stood there. It must be a humbling experience, working in the surrounding skyscrapers, to look out of your office window and be reminded that all the wealth, power and prestige you’re striving for could be returned to dust in a moment. At ground level, water flows down into a central well (the underworld?!). The names of the dead cut right through the metal border, and individual flowers are pressed in as memorials.

Freedom Tower

The new World Trade Center is housed in this ‘Freedom Tower’, finished in 2012. The same firm of architects also designed Chicago’s Willis Tower and Dubai’s Burj Khalifa (both to feature in upcoming blogs!).

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Wall Street

From its reputation, I thought Wall Street would be a large, anonymous street full of large banks and men in suits. In reality, there are plenty of tourists as well as traders, and even a museum (of finance). It has a slight dog-leg – such a relief after days of straight lines and right angles!

The area nearby has much more of a London vibe than Midtown did: cute back alleys and streets strung with lanterns, and a bit of quirk and character.

Staten Island Ferry

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Lower Manhattan seen from the ferry

It’s worth getting the free ferry to Staten Island, as it takes you within view of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. I knew about Ellis Island from the Sound of Music … sort of. The real Maria von Trapp’s books tell you what happens after the film ends: they don’t actually ‘climb every mountain’ between Austria and Switzerland to escape the Nazis, but emigrate to America. Like many immigrants and refugees in the first half of the 20th century, they came first to Ellis Island to be ‘inspected’.

Then there’s ‘Liberty Enlightening the World’, the near-100m tall statue imported from France in 1886 and representing freedom from British rule. So many ironies. How many can now look to America as a beacon of liberty and refuge from oppression in the era of the Trump travel ban and ‘the wall’? Wasn’t this freedom and independence from Europe built on the back of suppressing the freedoms of native Americans anyway?!

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn bridge
Lower Manhattan seen from Brooklyn Bridge

It’s not quite in Lower Manhattan, but it does afford some good views of the district, especially at twilight!

Next up, Chelsea!

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