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NYC Out of the ashes Tuesday, 11 December, 2001, 17:41 GMT
Part three: Back to work
Traders at the NY stock exchange
Great efforts were made to get the Stock Exchange back in business quickly
Peter Gould

How is NYC returning to work in the wake of the 11 September attacks? Who's been affected badly and how have they coped?

Three months on from September 11, the financial community in New York is looking to the future.

Despite the scale of human losses, many of the banks and stockbroking firms that occupied the World Trade Center have returned to some kind of normality.

It has been a painful process. Many companies with offices in the Twin Towers lost dozens of key staff. Some were virtually wiped out.

Lost documents and records had to be replaced, and new premises found. Some firms faced cash flow problems because of the interruption to normal business.

But while many companies are coping with the crisis, the future for the financial district of Lower Manhattan is less certain.

The Twin Towers were more than just symbols of New York and its pre-eminent position in the financial world.

The destruction of the World Trade Center meant the loss of 13.5 million square feet of office space.

Coping with loss

One of the firms forced to move was Alliance Consulting. On the day of the attack, seven members of staff were taking part in an early morning sales meeting.

They were all killed. An eighth person was in the lift when the plane struck the tower, and escaped.

The firm's chief executive officer, Craig Spitzer, says a counsellor was brought in to help the survivors.

"It was difficult, devastating, horrible...every other adjective you could describe," he says.

"From the second the thing happened, we've tried to support our people."

The company has moved to new offices in Midtown Manhattan. A 10th floor office was chosen, a decision intended to reassure staff nervous about going back into a skyscraper.

"We will move forward to honour the work of the people who died," says Craig Spitzer.

Alternative offices

The exodus of financial institutions from Lower Manhattan has hit many small businesses.

The shoe repairers, the dry cleaners and the coffee shops that relied on the trade from the Twin Towers are now struggling to survive.

Marvin Rafeld is the owner of a Wall Street jewellery shop. Although all his staff escaped on September 11, the business was severely hit.

He has managed to obtain a number of grants, including a 20-year loan from the Small Business Association.

The American Red Cross helped out with mortgage and cell phone bills, and the business will benefit from tax breaks.

"We were closed for two weeks, and when we returned there was dust and debris inside the store," Mr Rafeld recalls.

"We have clearly lost a segment of our normal clientele. I would not be here right now without this help."

Many of the banks and stockbrokers that lost their offices at the World Trade Center moved to other locations in the city, notably the Midtown area.

Man with flag going to work
This man proudly carried his flag back to work

Whether they return to Lower Manhattan is an open question. There were already signs of a recession before September 11.

According to one estimate, the district has lost 100,000 jobs, half of them from the World Trade Center.

Warren Wechsler, of the Real Estate Board of New York, believes that the state of the economy will determine how quickly Lower Manhattan recovers.

"The tragedy may have accelerated the downward trend in that part of the city," he says.

"There is no question that some companies will go, but some will come in."

He points out that Lower Manhattan has seen many ups and downs, not least the depression of the 1920s, and recessions in the early 70s and 90s. In each case, the area bounced back.

But some are wondering whether there will be a need for another World Trade Center, on the same scale as the Twin Towers.

Apart from the cost of rebuilding, there are now doubts about whether office workers in New York will ever feel happy about occupying such tall buildings.

So will the attacks on September 11 signal the end for the skyscraper?

Links to more NYC Out of the ashes stories are at the foot of the page.


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