Wall Street Was Once The Home Of The Big Banks. 9/11 Led To A Radical Reinvention


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People walk near the sight of Ground Zero and the One World Trade Center on Aug. 30. The Wall Street neighborhood changed drastically after the 9/11 attacks as banks moved out of what had long been their home.

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New York Mayor’s office released this view of proposed improvements to Water Street in Lower Manhattan on Dec. 12, 2002. The area around Wall Street has reinvented itself, with more non-financial companies pouring in and residential buildings going up.

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People walk by the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Aug. 10 in Lower Manhattan. Residential buildings have injected new life to a district that would become largely deserted in the evenings.

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Two traders argue after leaving the New York Stock Exchange March 15, 2001 after the closing bell. Before 9/11, almost half of the jobs here were in finance, insurance, and real estate, according to Downtown Alliance. Today, it’s roughly a third.

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Two traders argue after leaving the New York Stock Exchange March 15, 2001 after the closing bell. Before 9/11, almost half of the jobs here were in finance, insurance, and real estate, according to Downtown Alliance. Today, it’s roughly a third.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Looking at Wall Street’s past – and its future

Still, not every financial firm decided to move out of the neighborhood.

Ken Chenault, then the chairman and CEO of American Express, says a significant number of his colleagues wanted to move to another part of the city, or even out of New York altogether.

But to Chenault, the past was important: American Express has been based in Lower Manhattan since the 1850s. And he decided he wanted to be part of Wall Street’s future, even if it would be drastically different from what he knew.

«I felt strongly that American Express could play an important role in the revitalization of Downtown New York,» he says.

So American Express returned to its building on Vesey Street, across from One World Trade Center, back to the neighborhood it has called home for over a century.

  • Lower Manhattan
  • Remembering Sept. 11
  • World Trade Center
  • 9/11
  • New York
  • Sept. 11 attacks
  • Wall Street

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