Ever since the first residential building went up in Battery Park City in 1981, the neighborhood has steadily grown in size and density. But as someone who's lived here for over 15 years, it feels as though we're at critical mass.
Back when I first moved in, the neighborhood was sleepy and quiet as compared to nearby Tribeca, the neighborhood I grew up in. The World Trade Center had a thriving concourse with shops and restaurants, sure, and the waterfront was popular, too, but the area was virtually empty during the evenings and weekends. It felt like a private community, a secret, for those of us living here.
But today, aside from new businesses populating commercial space in the World Trade Center, the 9/11 Memorial and WTC observatory bring hordes of tourists to my neighborhood now. I truly worry that our little corner of Manhattan can’t possibly handle the crowds of people living, working and visiting Battery Park City.
Sleepy no more
Battery Park City certainly isn’t the “quiet” community it once was—just take a look at all the high-rises and construction everywhere. The upside to this influx of residents and tourists is that we get services we have missed and desperately needed—like shops and restaurants.
The newly renovated Brookfield Place (formerly the World Financial Center, see photo below) is a much-needed addition to the neighborhood. It was a shopping center when I first moved in; there was even a Barneys (pre-2001), but the space was in sore need of an upgrade and the stores slowly closed.
Of course, I’d love to see stalls for local farmers instead of the specialty Le District market. I'd also appreciate indie designers instead of J. Crew and Tory Burch—but the small-time businesses could never make the rent. That's just our reality.
And while there are a million complaints I could rattle off about my neighborhood (and my city at large), including overpopulation, a certain blandness, the cost of living and, my god, the rent, I still love Battery Park City. Here's why:
Location, location, location: For some reason, people think BPC is too removed from the rest of the city—too far from the trains, etc. Totally untrue. We’re on the West Side Highway and we've got the bikeway where you can run or bike along the Hudson; we’re also one train-stop away from Brooklyn Heights for those in need of a quick outer-borough fix.
But, honestly, thanks to all the activities, shops and restaurants we have in BPC now, I can easily go a week without leaving the neighborhood. If I have to, all of the trains are less than a 10-minute walk away: the 4/5 at Bowling Green, R at Rector, 1 at Rector, A/C/E at the Fulton Street Station. Plus Gateway Plaza on South End Avenue has a taxi stand right out front.
Plus, it doesn't feel as much like a concrete jungle as other parts of Manhattan. Typically you’d have to trek out to Long Island or Queens to get wide streets or tree-lined walkways and zero street noise at night, but we have all that in BPC.
Convenience: My neighborhood today has everything you need—grocery stores, pharmacies, movie theater, shopping, dining, library, parks and recreation. And if you can’t find it here we’re a quick walk away from TriBeca and SoHo.
As a new mom, BPC has been particularly ideal for me. Every place has easy stroller access, with wide aisles, elevators and automatic doors. In fact, all the jokes about baby strollers and Battery Park City are true: If a new store opens up without ample stroller access, they will probably fail.
Plus, have I mentioned the beautiful waterfront view along the Hudson River? I love strolling with my daughter on the promenade. We'll often walk from Wagner Park to Chambers Street and hit several parks and playgrounds along the way. Each one is clean and well maintained, thanks to the Battery Park Conservancy.
There are also free activities like art in the park and kids' story time. The only downside: The parks can become overwhelmed with kids, strollers, nannies and diamond-wearing, Lululemon-clad moms (there's a store at Brookfield Place, of course).
Food and entertainment galore: BPC used to be a barren wasteland for food and fun but now with the Danny Meyer restaurants (Shake Shack, North End Grill, Blue Smoke), El Vez and the Brookfield Place renovation, we’re overrun with great places to eat and shop. We even have a Chipotle on South End Avenue (and a Whole Foods in nearby Tribeca.)
Hudson Eats at Brookfield Place is a fancy food court, and a great place to stop for the occasional coffee or snack. I’m personally addicted to Olives—they have an amazing breakfast sandwich (for the record, eggs with Vermont cheddar and bacon on a pizza dough roll).
Pier A is the newest addition to the hood, but my feelings are mixed. We were hoping the beautiful space would be turned into an interesting food stop—maybe with a collective of farm-to-table eateries. But alas, Pier A is just another binge-drinking beer hall with picnic tables (a la Stone Street in the Financial District) lined up along the stunning view of the Hudson. This spot is more of a twentysomething hang-out than a family friendly destination.
Arts Brookfield also has a year-round lineup of events in the Winter Garden from concerts to movies and interactive art installations.
Like every New Yorker, I tend to wax nostalgic about old New York and complain about the rising prices in NYC and the congestion and the tourists. But BPC was and is a little oasis. An escape from the hustle and bustle. I just hope that development slows down and the tourists lose interest so our neighborhood doesn’t become Times Square.
In the meantime, I will try to enjoy our little city in the big city while I can.