Close-Up on Battery Park City


Battery Park City is suburban-lite. While not quite the New Jersey suburbs, the neighborhood has enough lawn to rival Wimbledon, and rollerbladers aplenty to make you think you’re in Ft. Lauderdale. But don’t write off Battery Park City. If you scratch just below the surface, there’s a lot going on in this Manhattan neighborhood, with its history built on a landfill and a future forever linked to the 9/11 attacks.

In the beginning, there was water. In the 1800s, the lower west side of Manhattan where Battery Park City sits was a vibrant port area. But by the 1950s, the place was just a bunch of dilapidated shipping piers. In the early 1960s, a group of private businesses decided to fill in the piers. Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, Jr. entered the picture in 1966 with a plan to build on this new land mass. Depending on which history book you read, Battery Park City was either Rockerfeller’s dream to build a mixed-use community on the western edge of lower Manhattan—or it was a proposal to help his brother David (who founded the development for the World Trade Center) create a posh place for Wall St. executives to hang their hats. Either way, Battery Park City now stands on land reclaimed from the Hudson River using more than a million cubic yards of dirt and rocks excavated during the construction of the World Trade Center and other construction projects.

Today Battery Park City is a cross between a park, a business district, and a high-end residential neighborhood. Hugging the Hudson River, BPC offers stunning views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Its Esplanade, a modulating series of paths and parks, runs the entire length of Battery Park City. Along its more than one-mile stretch are parks (Wagner and Rockefeller to name a few); stunning public art (Keith Haring, Richard Artschwager); museums (Jewish Heritage, Skyscraper) and a marina now run by Dennis Cooper of America’s Cup fame.

But for all its idyllic qualities, Battery Park City has always been overshadowed by the business that surrounds it. The majority of people you see in the neighborhood work, not live, there. It’s easy to see why for years it was an area more known for Wall Street than main street.

Then September 11th happened. Battery Park City residents describe their neighborhood in “pre” and “post” terms regarding the attacks. Before, as one resident said, Battery Park City was just “a cold antiseptic capitalists rat race neighborhood.” And after? “We all memorized each others names.” Neighborhood groups formed to deal with everything from health problems caused by the Twin Towers’ debris to an onslaught of displaced rodents (residents also like to call their hood “Rattery Park City”).

After four years, Battery Park City is about where it was before 9/11. Government incentives helped bring people back (approximately 9,000 people call Battery Park City “home,” roughly the equivalent of its pre-9/11 population.) Residents say they have tired of extra security measures that come with “orange” security levels, but they still consider the neighborhood a great place to live—not just work.

Boundaries: Battery Park City is bounded by West Street to the east; Stuyvesant High School (one of the city’s top math and science schools) to the north, Battery Place to the south, and the Hudson River to the west.

How to get there: Plenty of subways almost get you there: A; C; N; R; J; M; Z; 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6. But you’ll have to cross busy West Street.

Main Drags: The most picturesque spot is the Esplanade. You’ll weave through the rollerbladers and runners, but the views of the Hudson River are well worth the dodging. A walk up West Street is not as picturesque, but you’ll hit gems like the Liberty Community Gardens, West Thames Park, and the Little League baseball fields. This also is where you’ll walk next to what used to be the Twin Towers.

Prices to Rent and to Buy: Battery Park City is full of apartments, but they’re pricey. One-bedrooms: $2,000 to $3,000; two-bedrooms: $4,000 to $5,000. Looking to buy? Real estate agents say the average price for a condominium is approximately $720,000. Two-bedrooms range from $650,000 to $1.8 million and three-bedrooms can go from $750,000 to $3.5 million.

Hangouts, Parks and Restaurants: The Hungarcozy Pan Latin Café on Chambers St., according to the locals, is one of the few restaurants that actually draws people from other neighborhoods. On the south side, get ritzy at the Ritz Carlton’s 2 West.

There are myriad parks in Battery Park City. Robert F. Wagner, Jr. Park abuts Historic Battery Park (that ironically is NOT a part of Battery Park City). Nelson A. Rockefeller, Jr. Park sits on the north end. Here you’ll encounter shirtless men and bikini-clad women, making this a great pick-up place. Then there’s Rector Park and Teardrop Park, which boasts a killer slide. Don’t miss the Irish Hunger Memorial, which features grasses and stones from every county in Ireland.

Crime: The fact that New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly calls the area home might be one reason for its extremely low crime rate. Recent reports show neither murders nor rapes so far in 2005. Robberies and Assaults are also down from last year (6.6% and 26.2% respectively). However, since 2004 burglaries have risen from 69 for all of 2004 to 114 so far in 2005.

Politicians: State Senators are Martin Connor and Thomas Duane. State Assembly member Sheldon Silver is also the Speaker. City Council member is Alan Gerson. All are Democrats.