NYTimes.com Article: In Downtown Canyon, a Vibrant Social Scene Blooms
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In Downtown Canyon, a Vibrant Social Scene Blooms
September 4, 2003
By DAVID W. DUNLAP
YOU can find signs of new life downtown if you look
carefully. And listen.
Listen for the sound of laughter over the gurgle of
conversation along Stone Street. Once a grim rivulet in the
canyons of Lower Manhattan, Stone Street is now a sea of
umbrellas - Heineken green, Guinness black, Stella Artois
red, Amstel blue and Illy white - marking eight
restaurants, side by side, that fill almost every square
inch of this 19th-century precinct.
Suddenly, surprisingly, the two blocks of Stone Street
between Hanover Square and the Goldman Sachs headquarters
at 85 Broad Street have become a social scene, crowded
morning through night by Wall Streeters, tourists and
neighbors pushing baby strollers or walking their dogs.
This overnight transformation was eight years in the
What made it possible were coordinated public and private
measures, including a $2.3 million investment in the
physical environment and a landmark designation that some
property owners resisted. The result is different than its
planners envisioned. So far, it is even better.
"It just makes you happy to go on that street," said Carl
Weisbrod, president of the Alliance for Downtown New York,
which runs the Lower Manhattan business improvement
district and was heavily involved in trying to resuscitate
Stone Street, a dingy back alley for buildings along South
William and Pearl Streets, where it was once easier to buy
drugs than lunch.
Today, a French pastry shop, Irish pub, French bistro,
American grill and Italian, Chinese and Japanese
restaurants occupy the ground floors of the small brick
buildings. A Scandinavian sandwich shop, Smorgas Chef, is
to open next week. Tables spill out to the sidewalks and
stone-paved roadway, less than 20 feet wide, which is
closed to traffic.
What is emerging is a classic village marketplace, where
nominally competitive businesses profit from operating
cheek by jowl, attracting outsiders to an insular quarter
with the promise of variety.
"We all benefit from each other," said Harry Poulakakos,
proprietor of Harry's at Hanover Square at the end of Stone
Street. "You cannot eat at the same restaurant every day."
His son, Peter, who owns Bayard's restaurant (upstairs
from Harry's), has opened two establishments on Stone
Street in the last nine months: Financier P�tisserie and
Ulysses' pub, where his partner is Danny McDonald. "We're
on the verge of making Stone Street a real destination,"
Peter Poulakakos said.
From its debut on Bloomsday, June 16, Ulysses' has stayed
open until 4 a.m. and served Sunday brunch, which would
have been almost unthinkable downtown not long ago. The
four-year-old Waterstone Grill will probably open on
weekends by the end of the year. "It looks like the demand
has just about arrived," said Ronan Downs, a partner.
This is not the demand foreseen in 1995, when the Downtown
Alliance and Landmarks Preservation Commission sponsored a
master plan for Stone Street by the Praedium Group, as
economic development consultants, and Beyer Blinder Belle,
for design and preservation. Praedium called for a mix of
restaurants and "sports clothing and gear stores, corporate
gift shops, hair salons or dental clinics."
AS Mr. Weisbrod recalled it: "We were certainly
anticipating one or two outdoor cafes. We could hardly have
envisioned creating a street-length series of restaurants
of different kinds working in a complementary and
compatible fashion. There is no street like this in New
To ensure that Stone Street would keep its distinctive
character, formed in large part during the rebuilding of
New York after the great fire of 1835, the landmarks
commission designated it a historic district in 1996. Since
then, it has issued 18 permits for new storefronts, signs
To spur economic development, the street was rebuilt with
granite paving blocks, bluestone sidewalks and lampposts,
at a cost of $1.8 million, financed by the federal
government, the City Transportation Department, two other
agencies and the Downtown Alliance.
Owners on Stone Street chipped in $170,000 to repair vaults
under the sidewalks. Goldman Sachs and the Metropolitan
Life Insurance Company contributed $350,000 to rebuild the
adjoining Coenties Alley.
Stone Street was repaved and relandscaped by the end of
2000. But like the rest of New York, it needed time to
recover after the attack in 2001.
What amazes Jennifer J. Raab, who was chairwoman of the
landmarks commission when Stone Street was designated, is
not so much the scene - though she said her jaw dropped
when she first saw it - as the fact that it survived Sept.
"It's more precious because of that," she said, "a
wonderful social experiment to see if you can bring back a
historic district. To be able to do that after the most
extreme crisis our city has faced is spectacular."
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- Thanks, this has come to me from several sources. Interesting.
>This article from NYTimes.com-- ### --
>has been sent to you by rickrise@....
>Another carfree delight, this time in Manhattan!
>In Downtown Canyon, a Vibrant Social Scene Blooms
>September 4, 2003
> By DAVID W. DUNLAP
>YOU can find signs of new life downtown if you look
>carefully. And listen.
J.H. Crawford Carfree Cities