New life, business comes to Wall Street

Amy Scott Sep 11, 2008

New life, business comes to Wall Street

Amy Scott Sep 11, 2008


TESS VIGELAND: Wall Street was badly wounded when the World Trade Center was destroyed seven years ago. Between the terrorist attacks and the recession that was already underway at the time. The securities industry lost thousands of jobs. Those jobs had only just recovered to pre-9/11 levels when the credit crunch hit about a year ago.

Marketplace’s Amy Scott went to Lower Manhattan to see how the latest downturn is affecting the rebuilding effort.

AMY SCOTT: I’m standing here with Ted Weisberg of Seaport Securities. Ted, how long have you been at the New York Stock Exchange?

TED WEISBERG: Almost 40 years, I’m embarrassed to say — 40 years of doing the same thing, being a floor trader.

As Weisberg and I walk along Broad Street, past the New York Stock Exchange, one change since 9/11 is impossible to ignore. The streets are closed to cars. Police officers armed with automatic rifles survey the scene. Construction crews are busy building a series of traffic blockades.

WEISBERG: I think the only people that are making money in Wall Street these days are the contractors and the construction people.

The Wall Street bonus pool has shrunk in the last year. Thousands have lost their jobs. But Lower Manhattan is cashing in on a stream of foreign tourists drawn here by the weaker dollar. Developers have converted dozens of office buildings into luxury condos. And spendy brands like Hermes, Tiffany and BMW have all set up shop to cater to the new clientele.

WEISBERG: All these stores are new. And all since 9/11. And it just is indicative of how the whole nature of the Wall Street area, the whole demographics, if you will, of who comes here has changed so dramatically.

The business culture has changed too. The financial epicenter has spread to Midtown Manhattan, New Jersey and Connecticut. Media and high-tech firms have moved in.

Brad Gerla works with real estate firm CB Richard Ellis in Lower Manhattan. He says the new economic diversity is shielding the district from Wall Street’s woes and creating a vibrant scene.

BRAD GERLA: Downtown never used to have that 24-hour, seven-day-a-week community. After 5, 6 o’clock, it was pretty dark down here. You come down here now at 6 o’clock and the streets are very active. There are bars, there are restaurants. And I don’t see anything that’s gonna stop that.

There is one dark cloud over Lower Manhattan’s revival. At a Ground Zero memorial service yesterday, a singer competed with the din of construction equipment. Infighting and delays have plagued the rebuilding here.

Robert Sammons is head of research at real estate firm Colliers ABR. He says the delays are frustrating current tenants and discouraging new ones.

ROBERT SAMMONS: You’re basically sitting next to a huge construction site and all that means. So it’s a problem. And it could become an even greater problem if it drags out very long.

Sammons says it could be another five years or more before the 1,700-foot Freedom Tower opens its doors.

In New York, I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.

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