Mayor: The Street hit a Wall 80 years ago


By Josh Rogers

Mayor Mike Bloomberg said last week he was certain the financial industry will rebound in New York someday, but he said the steady decline of Wall St. as the market’s central location began nearly a century ago and is likely to continue with the revival.

“This is a movement that’s been going on,” Bloomberg said at a press conference last Wednesday, putting the beginning of the falloff at 1929, the year of the stock market’s most famous crash. Ever since then, Wall St. area firms have represented a declining percentage of New York’s financial industry, Bloomberg said.

The market recovery will happen, he’s sure, but “you can’t guarantee that it’s going to be Downtown….You’re going to see it move out [of Lower Manhattan]. The trick is to make sure that it’s here in New York City….

“There always will be need to raise capital for companies who trade securities on behalf of investors.”

The mayor made his remarks in response to a question at an event in Hudson Square. The city and other groups announced a series of initiatives to help jumpstart the New York economy including the opening of a “business incubator space” at 160 Varick St. for small start-up companies. Trinity Real Estate is donating about 15,000 square feet of space which will be run by Polytechnic Institute of New York University.

Carl Weisbrod, president of Trinity Real Estate, said the donation is a good long-term investment for the church, which has been working with the city for over three centuries and owns much of the land in present-day Hudson Square.

“We hope that the companies that are incubated here will move on, grow jobs, and take space at market rents elsewhere in this neighborhood,” Weisbrod said.

Polytechnic will select and provide guidance to the new firms, which will pay $200 a month per person in rent to the school for a small office. The institute will also run a similar space at 90 John St. owned by the Moinian Group. Jerry MacArthur Hultin, Polytechnic’s president, said the John St. space is likely to be geared more toward services for laid-off financial sector workers.

For his part, the mayor, who became a billionaire by selling financial information after he was fired on Wall St., was not ready to write off the area completely, citing advantages like the transportation, underground infrastructure and the modern office towers expected to be built at the World Trade Center over the next five years.

He also mentioned the residential community that has been moving into outdated office buildings over the last two decades.

Liz Berger, who lives in one of those buildings, also runs the Financial District’s Business Improvement District as president of the Downtown Alliance. When told of the mayor’s remarks, Berger did not take offense, saying Downtown’s increasing diversity is a good thing and that only about 30 percent of the Lower Manhattan jobs are in the financial sector.

But she added investment remains the area’s “signature industry” and “I don’t think we can say ‘Wall Street’ will no longer be on Wall St. in 10 years….

“We’re not a classic mixed use neighborhood — that usually means residential pushing out commercial…. Our residential supports our commercial.”

Berger also hinted the mayor did not go back far enough in history. “People have been writing Wall Street’s epitaph literally since the Great Fire of 1835.”