Although residents lost a lawsuit aimed at preventing the move, the controversial proposal, “was just a reporting office,” rather than a court, says Mr. Kennell. “It wasn’t as big a deal. But from that, we built a network of communications of some businesses and leaders from different buildings in the area.”
Mr. Kennell, a member of Community Board 1 (CB1), where he serves on the Financial District and Planning Committees, is the first president of the newly formed Financial District Neighborhood Association. The father of two children began organizing the group about a year ago; hoping to create a forum that will address the issues raised by a swelling residential population in what was once a ghetto of office buildings.
Edward (Ro) Sheffe, the chair of CB1’s Financial District Committee, recalls, “Patrick was probably the spearhead of that effort, even before,” being appointed to CB1. “He was very very active and I have had a great deal of respect for him ever since.” Mr. Sheffe adds, “there are so many issues in this community that need to be addressed. In some cases [those issues] cannot be resolved by the community board. So as an adjunct to the community board, I think [FDNA] is a wonderful idea.”
For more than a century, Lower Manhattan’s Financial District (more popularly known as “FiDi”) has been renowned worldwide as a center of commerce. But its residential population, once vanishingly small, has surged in recent years to more than 60,000. It is projected to leap above to 80,000 residents within two years, according to studies by CB1.
“I’ve always cared about our neighborhood,” Mr. Kennell says. “I’ve always been civic-minded, and there just seems to be, as the residential population grows, a need to have a neighborhood association.”
CB1 chair Catherine McVay Hughes feels that the creation of a neighborhood association leads to more equality for the FiDi area with other Lower Manhattan neighborhoods that began organizing long ago. “Creation of the neighborhood group is wonderful news,” says Mrs. Hughes. “We believe in community participation because it leads to better decision making and fairness.”
Mr. Kennell envisions the FiDi Neighborhood Association as more about the betterment of the community than about politics, with goals such as bringing families together and helping to improve the look and feel of the neighborhood. Among the group’s priorities is adding color and life to the streetscape, removing scaffolding that has covered the facades of some buildings for years, and creating a plan for more efficient trash pickup.
Association vice president, Sienam Lulla predicts that the group will help galvanize residents of the Financial District. “A goal is that more families start looking at FiDi as a complete neighborhood,” Mrs. Lulla says. “I’m super excited. We’re onto something that will energize people in the area. It is an association of the entire neighborhood.”
All of these topics and more will be on the agenda at the February 11 meeting, where, “one of the other purposes is to see what other people are seeing and solicit ideas of other areas where we can make a positive impact,” Mr. Kennell says.
The newly launched Financial District Neighborhood Association will hold its kickoff meeting on Thursday, February 11 from 6:30 to 7:30 pm, at the Pine Street School (25 Pine Street, between Nassau and William Streets).