Every day in recent weeks, tourists have poured onto Wall Street to catch sight of its demise, only to discover that the financial center of their imaginations, which once stretched the length of the fabled street, has long since ceased to exist.
NEW YORK — Every day in recent weeks, tourists have poured onto Wall Street to catch sight of its demise, only to discover that the financial center of their imaginations, which once stretched the length of the fabled street, has long since ceased to exist.
Only a few major financial institutions have national headquarters on Wall Street. Others moved over the decades to more spacious and modern offices in Midtown Manhattan or New Jersey, or to distant outposts such as Iowa and South Dakota.
Wall Street is an increasingly residential strip, with the dogs, babies, fitness clubs and juice bars to prove it.
“Wall Street is shorthand for an industry that is no longer on Wall Street,” said Mitchell Moss, an urban-planning professor at New York University.
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Before Sept. 11, 2001, there were 23,000 residents in Lower Manhattan, said Nicole LaRusso, vice president for planning and economic development at the Alliance for Downtown New York, which manages the area’s business-improvement district. Now, there are more than 56,000 residents, including those in more than 2,000 apartments on Wall Street.
“Wall Street is the model for the new, 21st-century central business district, where people live and work in the same place,” LaRusso said. “Of course, 300 years ago, this was 100 percent a live-work community. There was no place else to live or work.”
LaRusso said that on the southern side of Wall Street, almost every building has been converted or is being converted to housing or hotels.
The street has become a mecca for microphones, cameras and visitors, an impulse to bear witness to history. But some feel let down, finding that the street is a difficult vantage point from which to view the crisis.
“I’m a little disappointed in Wall Street,” said Richard Whittaker, 26, a doctoral student visiting from the U.K. with a friend. “We thought it’d be on a grander scale, less touristy, more business, more banks.”