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Chinatown Slowly Recovering From Impact Of 9/11

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Four years after the September 11th attacks, Chinatown is slowly starting to revive its local economy — although not everyone agrees on what the most important initiatives should be. NY1's Farnoosh Torabi has more.

From bargains to botanics, exotic edibles and fancy footwear, Chinatown is a must-see destination for millions of visitors who tour its historic streets. But behind the scenes, vendors who managed to keep afloat after 9/11 say it hasn’t been easy to keep this neighborhood thriving.

“I slowed down a bit since then,” says Susan Chan of Manhattan Florist & Gifts.

Chan opened her flower shop on Bayard Street eight years ago. She says sales tumbled 70 percent immediately after 9/11.

“Right now it's slowly getting better however there are a lot of obstacles facing Chinatown right now,” says Chan.

Obstacles that non-profit groups have recently started to combat.

“We interviewed almost 3,000 people to hear from them what they thought the main concerns were and there were really three main concerns,” says Robert Weber of Rebuild Chinatown Initiative. “One was sanitation and a lack of jobs in Chinatown; the other was lack of housing in Chinatown, and in fact prices have gone up. People could no longer live here. And it was a quality of life issue. People felt the streets were dirty, there were not enough parks.”

But many merchants say while those are all viable issues, the biggest problem is the lack of parking.

“Deliveries are very hard to come in because there's no place to stop their trucks,” says Philip Seid of Original Chinatown Ice Cream.

Especially when police cars take up the truck loading areas.

“We still don't have the parking lots that we used to have, like the one near the Brooklyn Bridge,” says Chan.

Chinatown’s short distance from Ground Zero and NYPD headquarters has turned the area into a security zone with numerous street closures and changes in traffic patterns.

“This was at the expense of the community,” says Jeanie Chin of the Civic Center Residents Coalition. “It had a direct impact. It hammered the vitality of the neighborhood. It impacted businesses.”

Meanwhile, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation has agreed to spend $25 million to study traffic problems.

Next January, the Chinatown partnership is launching a $7 million cleanup effort. Goals include improving signs and navigation maps for visitors and sponsoring a night market to attract tourists.

Still, many business owners in the area say those initiatives won’t suffice and wonder whether the area’s economy truly revive unless the parking situation improves?

— Farnoosh Torabi

Take a look back at NY1's coverage of the attacks of 9/11 and the subsequent anniversary events on our 9/11 Archive Page.
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