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5 Lower Manhattan Stories to Watch in 2017

By Irene Plagianos | December 29, 2016 4:52pm
 There's a lot going on in ever-evolving Lower Manhattan.
There's a lot going on in ever-evolving Lower Manhattan.
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LOWER MANHATTAN — Change seems to be one of the few constants in ever-evolving Lower Manhattan.

This past year was marked by some long anticipated openings — like the World Trade Center's transportation hub and some fancy new hotels and restaurants, including the revamped, historic Beekman Hotel, home to eateries from restaurateurs Tom Colicchio and Keith McNally.

Construction is booming as the area heads into the new year  — even after a deadly February crane collapse in TriBeCa — with numerous new condo towers, hotels and shopping centers, including revamped Pier 17's sleek mall, readying to launch. As scores of new shops and businesses continue to move Downtown, locals also lament the loss of longtime shops being pushed out by higher rents.

The neighborhood, which is still waiting for storm-proofing efforts to move forward more than four years after Hurricane Sandy, will start the new year with a young new assemblywoman who says she wants to champion the resiliency cause, among other issues.

Here's a look at some of the stories that will continue to shape the neighborhood in 2017:

1. Lower Manhattan's First New State Assemblywoman in 40 Years

After winning a hotly contested, six-way Democratic primary race in September, Yuh-Line Niou, 33, easily secured her victory for the 65th Assembly District seat.

Filling former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's long-held spot, now marred by his corruption conviction, won't be easy. But Niou, a former chief of staff for Queens Assemblyman Ron Kim, told DNAinfo New York that she's ready to take on the challenge, from day one.

As for Silver, in August a federal judge granted him the right to stay out of jail while he fights his corruption conviction on appeal — meaning it's unclear when, if ever, Silver will head to prison for his 12-year sentence.

2. Lower Manhattan's Continued Construction Boom

Scores of new residences and stores are on the way to Lower Manhattan, many inside luxury high rises — which many see as a boon for a neighborhood still bouncing back from 9/11, but there's also the smaller, longtime shops that continue to get pushed out by higher rents, even as many storefronts remain empty.

As new shops are in store for an overhauled 28 Liberty, a fight over a deed restriction modification on the landmarked plaza, remains unresolved going into 2017.

Though many locals say the increase of residential space is outpacing needed community amenities — there's one long-fought battle that's made some headway — the push for a new public school. The Department of Education announced its plans to open a 476-elementary school — at the base of a new luxury tower.

3. Governors Island Year-Round Evolution​

There's been a significant change on Governors Island, with the opening of acres of new parkland, including in July, the impressive "Hills" — giant waterfront, manmade hills, perfect for walking, biking, picnicking — and even sliding down.

As the Hills opened, the Trust For Governors Island longtime president, Leslie Koch — largely credited for the sweeping changes to the island — stepped down. But the next phase of development, changing the island into a year-round destination, instead of a summer season parkland is underway, with the island's new CEO Michael Samuelian, a former Hudson Yards real estate executive, now at the helm.

The mayor announced in February that he wants to create a year-round "innovation cluster" on the island, a space for tech companies and educational institutions, and entrepreneurs.

As the island looks for year-round tenants, one relaxing new feature is set for the summer — a day spa, with restaurants and an outdoor pool.

4. The Howard Hughes Corporation's Transformation of the Seaport

The long anticipated Pier 17, which was totally rebuilt, is slated to open in 2017 — complete with a massive sleek, glass mall and open rooftop space. Along with yet-to-be named retail stores, the pier will be home to a restaurant from celebrity chef David Chang. And a revamped Tin Building, base of the pier, has plans for a food hall under the guidance of another celebrity chef, Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

Questions, however, remain about how the character of the Seaport, one of the city's oldest neighborhoods, will be shaped by the renovations. 

The role of the South Street Seaport Museum — which opened its first exhibit in its Fulton Street building since Hurricane Sandy in 2016 — and whether it would move locations, also remains unresolved

5. Battery Park City Authority vs. Neighborhood Residents

After a long push led by State Sen. Daniel Squadron to allow public comment at public meetings of the Battery Park City Authority, the state agency that oversees Battery Park City, the board — most of whom don't live in the neighborhood — relented.

That's a positive step for residents who have long complained that the board does not do enough to address community concerns, or takes actions without proper community input. It remains to be seen if new public comment will create better relations between the board and the community.