I wanted to share some introductory blogs about Manhattan neighborhoods before I take you on a tour of the actual baby-centric businesses services and resources in them.
When I first arrived here in 2000 I literally walked the length and breadth of the island, map/guide/history books in hand. I'd read, walk and explore Manhattan, dipping into her checkered historical biography. Those walks taught me so much. My rambles educated me from the Streets Up about what makes New York City's unique flavor. The fusion of ethnic groups, political movements and the passing of revolutions and civil wars have all etched their mark into Manhattan's collective soul.
So let's disembark way - way - Downtown - and traverse into historian's Pete Hamill's territory.
It’s difficult to navigate the history of this region without giving generous attention to the Dutch merchants, Dutch Knickerbockers of “New Amsterdam” and the British upper-classes who generated a “society” on Manhattan that has set her tone for ever more. The juxtaposition of the Trinity church within a maze of trading dens and alleys testifies to this regions smelted heritage of trade and higher destiny. When one walks the streets – streets that wind, bend and narrow – one can actually feel the energy, the tightness, the pace and the anxiety of the early colonizers. One can almost smell the roasting corn cobs over small coal furnaces sold by African-American women or the arid spice of fresh oysters.
The heady mix of stale beer from the numerous ale houses, the pipe smoke and the ever present odor of urine (no public toilets back then) fills the nostrils. Brash loud sounds bombard the ears as traders, drunks and merchants shout above the constant clatter of carriages. On the streets there are few women - women of a good reputation that is. For the many widows of lost sailors, or freed indentured female servants (whether Irish or African) there is the temptation of a 'quick trick' downtown.
It’s as though a resonance was begun here of such magnitude that it continues to hum despite the concrete. North of the FINANCIAL DISTRICT was a great wilderness still populated with Indians and plentiful game. Facing the river Hudson was the constant threat from the British colonists (New Englanders) – hence the construction of WALL STREET. The continuation of Dutch trading interests under the British ensured that the island’s shift from “New Amsterdam” to “New York” (named after the then Duke of York) passed relatively smoothly (by European standards).
The Charging Bull (Sculpture) of Bowling Alley (The oldest park in Manhattan) is a fitting symbol of this area’s historical - enduring - financial power. Sculpted by Arturo Di Modica in 1987 during the stock market crash it epitomizes “…. aggressive financial optimism and prosperity…”. Di Modica created his piece at his own expense, installing it in December 1989 as a Christmas gift to the people of New York.
I salute Di Modica for his faith in the FINANCIAL DISTRICT’S stamina, and post 911 – it is a fitting accolade to New York’s refusal to surrender.