By Julie Shapiro
FINANCIAL DISTRICT — The Dutch are taking lower Manhattan back.
A tulip-studded plaza designed to resemble an Amsterdam street cafe opened at Manhattan's southern tip on Thursday, bringing a taste of New Amsterdam to modern New York.
The 1.3-acre Peter Minuit Plaza — named for the Dutch merchant who bought the island of Manhattan from the Lenape Indians — features curving benches, gardens and a pinwheel-shaped pavilion.
"It really feels like Amsterdam," Margriet Leemhuis, Dutch ambassador for international cultural cooperation, said at Thursday morning's ribbon cutting. "We see this as a sign of our solidarity and friendship with you."
In honor of the 400-year anniversary of Henry Hudson's arrival in New York, the Dutch donated the $2.3 million, 5,000-square-foot New Amsterdam Pavilion, which anchors the plaza and houses the organic Merchants Market cafe, along with visitor information. The pavilion arrived in 2009 but it has taken until now to put the finishing touches on it and the surrounding plaza.
To commemorate Peter Minuit, whose name means "midnight," the pavilion will light up in different colors each evening.
Dutch architect Ben van Berkel, who designed the pavilion, said he conceived its four curving arms to welcome in the 150,000 people who rush through the plaza in all directions every day.
"We wanted to point to many locations — many locations from which people come, to bind the activity together," van Berkel said. "It's so inviting."
Beaming at his creation Thursday morning, he added, "I'm super excited."
Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan called the plaza "the most multi-modal acre in America" because it connects pedestrians to the Staten Island Ferry, the 1 and R trains, the M15 bus and the bikeway that rings lower Manhattan.
The plaza will also host events, including performances, art exhibitions and weekend markets.
"It's not just a place to pass through on the way to the ferry, but a real destination," Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe said.