By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — The last time Queen Elizabeth II was in New York, Abraham Beame was mayor, Battery Park City was nothing more than a stretch of dirt and the Twin Towers had recently opened.
Her Majesty will no doubt find that much has changed since 1976 when she returns to the Big Apple for a brief visit on Tuesday.
The queen, 84, will pay respects at Ground Zero Tuesday morning and address the United Nations General Assembly later in the day. She will also join Mayor Bloomberg to officially open the British Memorial Garden at Hanover Square, a small park that commemorates the 67 British subjects killed on 9/11.
Rodney Johnson, vice chairman of the British Memorial Garden Trust, called the queen’s visit “the ultimate honor we could possibly receive.”
Johnson, 73, a dual British-American citizen, said the queen’s presence will bring great comfort to the several dozen victims’ family members who are expected to attend.
“It’s difficult for Americans to understand,” Johnson said of the monarchy. “One grows up with this huge respect for royalty. It’s very special for us.”
The queen and her husband, Prince Philip, 89, the Duke of Edinburgh, are stopping in New York on their way home from a nine-day tour of Canada.
In honor of the visit, the Downtown Alliance put together a tongue-in-cheek list of things for her Majesty to do in lower Manhattan — including ride the Alliance’s free shuttle bus.
As the queen’s arrival approaches, Johnson said workers at the British Memorial Garden were still adding the finishing touches, including gold-plated finials atop the fence. The finials are cast with images of roses for England, thistles for Scotland, daffodils for Wales and flax for Northern Ireland.
Prince Harry planted a tree in the memorial garden on his trip to New York last year, but Johnson said all the queen will have to do on Tuesday is cut a ribbon.