NEW YORK (AP) — Lower Manhattan has blossomed from tragedy into tourist magnet in the years since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, a revival that's generating some growing pains along with celebration.
For local residents and businesses, the throngs of visitors have brought an economic boon and new energy to their stricken neighborhood, community groups told City Council members at a committee hearing Friday. But there also have been downsides: crowded sidewalks, overflowing trash cans and local businesses being pressed into service as public bathrooms.
City officials say they're working to iron out the problems, for the sake of tourists as well as residents.
"We want to give the visitor a good experience," said City Councilwoman Margaret Chin, who convened Friday's hearing.
In the early years after the 2001 attacks, it was difficult to envision crowds becoming a concern in lower Manhattan, which officials define as a one-mile-square area that includes upscale Tribeca, the financial district, Battery Park City and some other neighborhoods south of Canal Street. Many businesses shunned the area; hundreds, if not thousands, of residents moved away.
But lower Manhattan now has three times as many residents as it did before the attacks; there also are slightly more businesses, officials say. Not to mention the 9.8 million tourists who visited the area last year, up 30 percent in two years, according to the local business improvement district, called the Downtown Alliance. The growth partly reflects the 4.5 million people who have flocked to the Sept. 11 memorial since it opened in September 2011.
There are three times as many lower Manhattan hotel rooms as before 9/11, the alliance says, and tourists make up a growing share of the guests in hotels that traditionally catered to business travelers. At the Millennium Hilton, a large hotel overlooking ground zero, about 30 percent of today's guests are tourists, compared with 15 percent in 2003, general manager Jan Larsen said.