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Battery Park City, since its formation in the early 70’s, has always been viewed by most New Yorkers as more of a Staten Island annex rather than a true part of Manhattan, and for good reason. With the West Side Highway as a barrier, the place took on a suburban vibe with a surreal David Lynch or Stephen King twist. All of that might change now as the new Goldman Sachs headquarters takes root.
Despite a large residential population with an average income well over $100,000, Battery Park City has long been underserved by low quality shady restaurants barely meeting health inspection minimums, and has been totally devoid of respectable nightlife venues. After the financial collapse that began in 2007, things got even worse. The one bright spot of BPC, the Ritz Carleton hotel rooftop lounge, closed down, as did The Gate House and several shops in the Winter Garden of the World Financial Center.
The closest source for quality restaurants or entertainment has been in Tribeca with its block of restaurants, such as Nobu and The Tribeca Grill. But even Tribeca was seriously lacking in entertainment. With the housing bubble came $2 Million and up apartments, with owners more typically found in New Jersey or West Chester. As a result, the community board frowned upon 4:00 AM closing times or any noise whatsoever.
Some high-end wine or brandy bars have tried to establish in Tribeca but never flourished. The Tribeca Grand hotel lobby space and the Smyth Hotel venue are all struggling. The demand seems to be lacking. Bankers at nearby Citigroup bolt home after work, and poor management plagues the hotel attempts.
Along comes Goldman Sachs. The new headquarters opened in 2010 at the corner of Vesey Street and West Street, in Battery Park City. The adjacent hotel, also owned by Goldman Sachs, was gutted and converted into the new Conrad Hotel, upgrading it from the old Embassy Suites.
Dino Fusco and his Goldman Sachs team quickly evicted the failing Applebee’s, Chevy’s, and other low quality restaurants, and brought in some much improved establishment at the ground level of the hotel. Most of them are now open for business after more than a year of renovation.
Having been opened for just one week, the social scene has immediately changed for the better in Battery Park City. The crowds inside Mark Maynard-Parisi and Danny Meyer’s Blue Smoke southern cuisine restaurant do not remotely resemble the crowds of the old joints on South End Avenue. The place is packed with young executives who work nearby at American Express, Goldman Sachs, etc, or who live nearby in the newly built green apartments.
In addition to the Shake Shack, the other Danny Meyer establishment in the Conrad Hotel space is the North End Grill that is comparable to his midtown well-reviewed Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Tavern. No doubt, there will soon be seen lines of Maybach’s and limos on the street in front waiting for diners.
For the resident of Battery Park City with high standards, no longer will they need to trek over to Tribeca for decent dining. The entertainment situation might improve as well when the Conrad Hotel opens. A variety of lounges and music venues are rumored to be opening, including an outdoor rooftop space overlooking the Hudson River and New York Harbor. This might fill the void left when the Ritz Carlton gave up on this business. Ideally, residents would be getting a Jazz Standard next to the Blue Smoke, but that is not in the cards (despite BatteryPark.TV trying to convince people).
Due to its superior infrastructure, the Goldman Sachs-led reincarnation of Battery Park City actually has much more potential of becoming a premier Manhattan neighborhood than Tribeca ever did. For starters, there is a marina that can accommodate the largest yachts in the world. The area has an Asphalt Green training facility with an Olympic-size swimming pool and outdoor baseball/soccer fields. There are two newly constructed public schools. The BPCA-managed parks and botanical gardens are better than any others in the city. The high-rise housing is mostly all modern and green. It is easier to own a car and access the tunnels from Battery Park City than in Tribeca, and two of the best hotels in the city are in Battery Park (Institutional Investor Magazine ranked the Ritz as the best hotel in the world in 2007).
Good retail clothing shops will follow soon. In 2013, the renovation of the Winter Garden will be completed with numerous new businesses.
Please do not forward this article. A good thing is best kept quiet. We don’t want any riffraff from SoHo coming down here.