By Julie Shapiro and Jill Colvin
LOWER MANHATTAN — The city is embarking on a sweeping new marketing campaign to draw millions of visitors to Lower Manhattan as the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Thursday.
Launching June 1, the push will promote Lower Manhattan's hotels, shops, restaurants and cultural attractions, encouraging people who are planning to visit the 9/11 memorial to spend time and money exploring the rest of the neighborhood.
"A crucial part of the story of 9/11 is how Lower Manhattan, an area many people said Osama bin Laden’s attack would turn into a ghosttown, has come back phenomenally in the last ten years," Bloomberg told reporters at a press conference on Stone Street announcing the initiative.
The city will entice travelers with hotel packages that include museum passes, walking maps and 20 percent discounts at certain downtown retailers. NYC & Company will spread the message using citywide ads, social media and a taxi TV spot.
The ads will also encourage people visiting the neighborhood to use mass transit, to alleviate the potential traffic and air-quality problems that thousands of extra cars and buses would bring.
"We’re very pleased," said Ronan Downs, the owner of a host of participating lower Manhattan eateries, including Beckett’s Bar & Grill and the Dubliner. He predicted the campaign would boost local business "big time."
Peter Poulakakos, the owner of several area restaurants including Ulysses, Harry’s and the Financier Patisserie, also hoped the effort would encourage tourists to explore the rest of lower Manhattan.
"We’re happy that they thought of us," he said.
While only NYC & Company-affiliated businesses will be included directly in promotions, CEO George Fertitta said the whole neighborhood will benefit.
"We're just trying to create vibrancy for the entire Downtown area," he said.
The campaign will also inform visitors of the ticket system the 9/11 memorial will use when it opens to the public Sept. 12. Visitors will have to reserve their free tickets in advance for the next couple of years, while access to the memorial is limited by surrounding construction.
Fertitta and Joe Daniels, president of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, will reveal more details about the campaign at the U.S. Travel Association's International Pow Wow conference in San Francisco May 24.
When he was asked by a reporter whether it was appropriate for Daniels to be promoting the museum, Bloomberg nearly gasped.
"One of the things that we have to do is to tell everybody about what happened...Joe should be out there," he said.
Downtown attractions are already seeing record numbers of tourists so far this year, and the numbers are only expected to swell heading into the summer and this fall's anniversary.
"Lower Manhattan is the place to be," Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver declared as he stood with the mayor.
"If Kevin Costner built the 'Field of Dreams,' we are building the community of dreams and people are coming in droves," he said.
"There is no better place on earth," State Sen. Daniel Squadron agreed.