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NEW YORK CITY- Downtown Rebounds, a recently-formed advocacy group encompassing more than 20 Lower Manhattan business, civic, residential and education interests that represent 50,000 residents and 350,000 area workers polled the community on various neighborhood issues. One key finding is that 35% of those surveyed view revitalization of street level local retail services as the overall top priority for downtown reconstruction. Another finding was that 78% of downtown residents plan to remain in their neighborhood for the long haul, despite personal losses and disruptions.

Approximately 800 residents who live in various neighborhoods on both the east and west sides of Lower Manhattan below Canal St. were polled by Blum and Weprin Associates May 4 through 6.

“We felt it was good to be a collective voice and have a say in the rebuilding process,” says Richard Kennedy, a senior director at Cushman & Wakefield, who is also a Friends of Community Board #1 member, regarding the formation of Downtown Rebounds. “It’s very telling that a neighborhood can come together after the worst disaster and become a vibrant community again.”

The need for more shopping options in the area is not surprising considering that approximately half of residents in Battery Park City and Tribeca travel outside of their neighborhood to do daily shopping that was available prior to September 11. In the meantime however, with the understanding that the reconstruction of the area will take time, 75% of residents favored the creation of an open air market on the east side of the World Trade Center site until the rebuilding of the site is completed.

Other responses to the question regarding what residents want most during the extensive Ground Zero rebuilding process include 21% listing new public schools as their top priority, making it the second choice overall, though it ranked as the highest priority for residents with children under 18. And 17% of residents chose east and west side waterfront and park improvements as a top priority, making it the third choice overall.

Transportation is also a key issue in the rebuilding of Lower Manhattan. According to the poll, 39% of residents list the improvement of east-west access for pedestrian and vehicular traffic as their most important transportation priority. At the present time, 70% of residents are forced to take detours in their daily routines. Another 30% list a direct transit link to airports and Long Island as their top priority and 11% say that parking facilities should top the list of priorities.

The poll also reveals that the majority of Lower Manhattan residents have a positive view of their neighborhood, though there was a steep drop in the number of residents who say the quality of life is excellent today as compared to before September 11. While 42% of residents who lived in Lower Manhattan prior to September 11 rated the overall quality of life as “excellent” during that time, only 14% of the same respondents feel this way now.

“This poll makes us aware of where there needs to be improvement,” Kennedy adds. “It was important to first assess what the people represented are really thinking and get a picture of the needs out there.”

Although a year and a half has passed since the 9/11 attacks, residents are still feeling the emotional and physical impacts of the tragedy, the poll indicates as 30% of respondents or a household member who lived downtown prior to September 11 continue to suffer from respiratory problems. The survey said 72% of respondents or a household member who lived downtown prior to September 11 have suffered from emotional difficulties such as anxiety, depression and 31% continue to suffer today.

During the coming week, Downtown Rebounds will release more results concerning the community’s reflections on the September 11 memorial and WTC site. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5%.

Downtown Rebounds member business or civic organizations include Tribeca Organization, Inc., Wall Street Rising, Downtown Alliance, Seaport North Business Association, Friends of Community Board #1 and Century 21. Residential groups include WTC Residents Coalition, South Bridge Towers Board of Directors, Independence Plaza Tenants Association, Tribeca Community Association, Seaport Community Coalition, Family Association of Tribeca East, The Battery Park City Homeowners Coalition, BPC United and Gateway Plaza Tenants Association. School group members include PS 234 PTA, Stuyvesant High School, PS 89 PTA, IS 89 PTA, Pace University and the Borough of Manhattan Community College. The group is currently meeting on a bi-weekly basis.

“We’re all very passionate and believe downtown is a wonderful place,” Kennedy notes.

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