It is the heart of Manhattan, sung in songs, featured in crazy money stories, been a star, a victim, so different from Wall Street to Little Italy. Here’s a very partial vision of Downtown, a few images, few words. Some addresses can be found on the dedicated page.
Remember, this is just a snapshot, and many things change, so fast… some buildings might not even be here anymore, others will have been built… NYC is a constant work in progress.
It starts with the beautiful southern Battery park, and the vista of the Statue de la Liberté. A relatively unknown but worth doing a tour museum is there: Native Americans’ culture. It is too small, too incomplete to honor this amazing civilization, alas, but it is the right image of how Indians have been and probably still are treated. Big and empty museum. Good bookshop though.
Up Pearl street, probably the least straight street in NYC, there are some fine buildings like the India house, closely related to the love-hate relationship with the mother realm.
The area of Wall street, or, as it appears in guides, the Financial district, is full of history, niched between skyscrapers of various heights and purposes. The beginning of the USA with the Federal hall is a fair example:
The area is for piétons only, or almost, which is relieving, and makes the experience of walking between the high buildings quite pleasant. Instead of feeling oppressed, one can even feel elated, heightened with the buildings stature. That was at least my very European mind’s perception.
The metro (oops, sorry – subway!).. New York is indeed the most walkable city in the US.. the most densely served by public transport too. But let’s be honest: the NYC subway is strange. Inside, it looks like it hasn’t changed from the 1960s. It’s not only the decor, some of which is quite old on purpose (it is a very old subway indeed) – it’s the working conditions for the metro staff, old shabby kiosks, the stairs, the wagons.. On the other side it is very very fast (even if New Yorkers will claim the contrary). Sometimes it scares me that in its rush to crazy speed it will just fall apart. And nobody seems to notice.
The skyline.. Even if the soulless midtown is much more impressive nowadays, downtown remains a symbol.. deprived from its very best, though. The two twins miss sorely. I almost want to draw them on the picture.
But here she is, the highest of them all, still young and incomplete, and for some, very shy, with her dwarf brothers in the making all around the area, reshaping downtown again. In the night, she twinkles like all covered in diamonds. Liberty One.
Going North, on one side, Tribeca, the famous and weird neighborhood for millionaires (why would they live here, again?..), where the main site for me is the Ghost-Busters firehouse. A colorful milestone within an area scarred by mid-rises taking away most of the beauty of the old arched buildings (where the millionaires supposedly live).
On the other, City Hall, a small no-car area with pompous administrative buildings, reminding that America is a very, very bureaucratic state. Also, starting point of the famous Brooklyn bridge walk.
To the East, stretches an ever-growing Chinatown. Swarming with locals and tourists, it (indeed) offers cheap and good food, if you know where to go. If not, don’t stop.. not much to see, apart repetitive junk shops, wholesale shrimp boutiques and cheap nail bars.
And in the middle, nestled between a few streets, remains a little pearl, receding under the powerful neighbor: Little Italy. Shady, old glory hanging in the air, few nice restaurants, tourist shops, and something sad: guides nowadays just don’t mention Little Italy anymore.