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January 10th, 2006

Wall Street Rising

by D. Clark MacPherson

After 9/11 Julie Menin was just one of the many downtown residents stunned by the physical devastation as well as the psychological damage caused by the terrorist attack. Not only were many residents fleeing the area but businesses were also suffering. Suddenly, robust sales and crowds evaporated. Barricades went up and Army humvees took over the landscape. Several of those businesses that managed to weather that particular storm eventually failed due to the street closings, which compounded the problem. Her own restaurant, Vine, recently succumbed. But, from the ashes of 9/11 came the Phoenix of her very successful organizations, Do It Downtown and Wall Street Rising-two of the several initiatives that Julie Menin fostered during this desolate period in our history. As an attorney with 8 years of regulatory experience (dealing with the FTC, FDA, Department of Justice), and as a senior Colgate Palmolive attorney, she came to the task equipped with a wealth of knowledge and experience. The ingredient that brought all of this together was motivation. And, as a downtown resident with a child (now with three children), the fear and frustration gave way to a resolve to create and change. Menin had stopped practicing law in 1999 and had opened “Vine” in March of 2000, which was impacted as many other businesses had been by 9/11. Therefore she had insight both as a resident and a business owner. Wall Street Rising was originally formed to answer the question of how one survives in the new environment created by this disaster. Initially her organization helped business owners with lease negotiations and disputes, insurance problems, navigating the grant process, and exploring tax incentives. While it was challenging at first, the organization now has nearly 30,000 members-business owners, corporate executives and residents. Although it was originally a business-oriented organization, currently 60% of its members are residents.

Menin has a staff of 4 full time and 2 part time employees and she describes her own involvement as “a labor of love.” She works hard and draws no salary. A recent initiative offering discount cards to shoppers visiting Wall Street area businesses is an example of the effectiveness of this hard work. Over 500,000 discount cards were distributed thus far and some establishments have reported receiving nearly 500 discount cards per week with store sales. The consensus is that this plan has single-handedly had the effect of driving foot traffic back to Wall Street.

Julie is an outgoing and intelligent entrepreneur, a political activist and a mother who also finds time to be a member of Community Board #1, which serves Wall Street and Tribeca (the tip of lower Manhattan to Canal Street). She is Co-Chair of the World Trade Center Redevelopment Committee and has been active on the LMDC (Lower Manhattan Development Corporation) resident advisory group-which helped review the nearly 5000 plans for the Memorial. This alone took hundreds of hours of her time.

At this point, Julie has several priorities after her family (she just had twins). She hopes to expand Wall Street Rising and wants to reach out to other areas such as Tribeca and Chinatown to try to bring the entire lower Manhattan community closer, more interconnected. She hopes our vibrant communities can work together to help solve some of the common problems we experience. Politically, she hopes to continue to work with the community on a personal level and also through her organizations-to make the kind of difference that will benefit businesses as well as residents.

As part of this committment, her organization is sponsoring a concert series this coming November at Manhattan Community College, which will be a weeklong series with well-known stars in the music world.

Her efforts have also focused upon education and information. In the past Wall Street Rising sponsored “Art Downtown,” a moveable exhibit of museum quality artwork that was shown for three months, free of charge.

As an aside, she also pointed out that we should be aware of the fact that there are significant resources that are still untapped. Of the original $2.7 Billion originally made available to the downtown economy, through LMDC, nearly $900 million is yet to be allocated. We should work together to invest this money well for the future of Downtown. Finally, she wanted us to know that she and her organizations, as well as other members from Community Board #1, are carefully watching the review process at 130 Liberty Street. It is a site that is contaminated with significant quantities of asbestos and other dangerous pollutants, which must be deconstructed soon.

For those of you who wish to learn more about the work of Wall Street Rising and how to interconnect with their efforts, check these two websites: www.WallStreetRising.org and www.DowntownInfoCenter.org.

The phone numbers at their $2 million dollar ground floor info center at 25 Broad Street are: (212) 509-0300 and (212) 425-INFO.

We all hope to hear and see much more of Julie Menin in the future. Obviously, it would be good for lower Manhattan.

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