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DowntownNYC! Snapshot Survey
by: Jonathon Slaff

Published by:
on: Friday, March 8th, 2002


Our Snapshot Survey, completed at the end of February, 2002, gives a highly-focused picture of economic loss and job loss in the downtown community, particularly in its theaters, since the attacks of 9/11. The situation is far worse than the picture of the economy at large as represented in a recent report by the New York State Department of Labor, which was released March 5, 2002 That report basically showed that private unemployment in the City had increased by 3.8%, compared to a national increase of just 1.5%.

The Department of Labor's figures were taken primarily from corporate unemployment tax filings. The employment category most severely affected, according to the State, was Business Services, which includes computer consultants, advertising agencies and temporary help services. The unemployment increase of 10% in that category compares to an overall unemployment increase of 17.5% in our survey of Downtown businesses and arts organizations.

The results of our survey warn policy makers against underestimating the effect of 9/11 on Downtown New York in general and its arts businesses in particular. We feel it is necessary to state this publicly given hints of a possible recovery that are now emerging based on various other indices in the economy.

In issuing these results, we appeal for the creation of more far-ranging surveys of this type in order to more fully ascertain the economic loss and job loss in the downtown community as a result of the terrorist attacks, and for these surveys to try and separate the effect of the attacks from the effect of the general downturn of the economy. We also appeal for follow-up surveys to track the pace of recovery in this important sector of the City's economy and to pinpoint specific needs, so that policy makers can be alerted if "stronger medicine" must be applied to bring the City's Downtown community, and in particular its arts organizations, back to health.

DowntownNYC! was formed November 8, 2001 at the Cherry Lane Theater, spearheaded by leaders of Downtown theater and arts organizations. It is a coalition of arts organizations, civic groups, restaurants and businesses working to revitalize Downtown Manhattan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The Government Outreach Committee of DowntownNYC! is an autonomous task force of this organization.

In a volunteer effort to gather information to guide government agencies, private foundations and business groups planning relief efforts in the wake of the attacks of September 11, the Government Outreach Committee of DowntownNYC! conducted a survey on the business impact and job loss in Manhattan, emphasizing the area below 14th Street that was quarantined following the 9/11 attack. The survey was conducted entirely with the resources and manpower of our committee.

Between December 14, 2001 and February 15, 2002, the theaters belonging to DowntownNYC! and their surrounding businesses were solicited to either fill in a survey on-line, through a website produced by Intracommunities, Inc. or to complete the survey in hard copy and mail it to our committee using a self-mailer. The Alliance of Resident Theaters, NY was particularly helpful in distributing the questionnaire.

The survey was written by committee member Thomas Boyd and the results were analyzed by committee members Jonathan Slaff and Carolyn S�vos. The survey form is attached. As organizers of the survey, we are obligated not to release the raw data, in compliance with our guarantee of privacy to the respondents.

Wherever data was collected, the mean measurements were compared to the mode and median measurements. The results were graphed and a final determination as to which measure most suited the data was made by eyeballing. In all categories, the mean appeared to be the most appropriate representation of the data.

The sample contained no organizations above 28th Street. Above 14th Street, the organizations responding were six theaters and all were on the West Side. From Houston Street to 14th Street, respondents identified themselves as theaters (17), restaurants (1), visual arts incl. galleries (1) and professional services (1). Below Houston Street, respondents identified themselves as theaters (3), retail (2), visual arts incl. galleries (7) professional services (4), museums (2), New Media (1) and film (2). Three did not classify themselves, but one of these was a rental property business. One of the retail businesses was a bakery, for whom food spoilage was a major cause of business loss. All the self-employed respondents were from below Houston Street. They identified themselves as Artists (7), Professionals (5) and Other (1).


We anticipated that the data would show that the 9/11 attacks had affected business conditions all over Manhattan, but that the closer you get to Ground Zero, the greater would be the effect. The results have born out this idea fairly well.

47% (21 of the 45 respondents) reported having made layoffs since 9/11. In the area below Houston street, the layoffs were comprised of 70% part time workers. In the area above Houston Street, the layoffs were 57% part-time workers. Interestingly, a greater percentage of businesses above Houston Street (50%) reported layoffs than those below Houston Street (44%). This was attributable to a greater number of individual artists and solo proprietorships responding to the survey from the area below Houston Street.

Overall, there was a total reduction in jobs of 17.5%, with a 31% job reduction below Houston Street and 13% job reduction above Houston Street. In all the businesses surveyed, 44% of part-time workers and 22.5% of full-time workers were laid off.

In the area below Houston Street, of respondents who estimated their gross income loss in percentage terms, the mean was 46.5%. The corresponding mean estimate for respondents above Houston Street was 35%. We surveyed for loss of gross in dollars and number of customers lost, but irregularities in how amounts were entered in the survey forms prevented us from meaningfully analyzing this data.

Of the 44 businesses responding, 28 (64%) are located below 14th Street. In that group, 25 are located below Houston Street and 11 of these (45%) reported physical damage to property and business. Others reported problems caused by access and use of their facilities for the staging of relief efforts. The major reported impediment to business was dust and debris. More dust was reported on the West Side than the East Side, and actually 100% of the businesses on the West Side of that district reported dust. There were no reports of dust damage above Houston Street.

In the total sample, 95% reported loss of business and 5% reported no loss or were unresponsive on that subject. The overall percentage of gross business loss was estimated by graphing the results; the most satisfactory reading of the data was approximately 40%. (The mean was 40.2%, the mode was 30% and the median was 30%.)

At the time, a number of factors had been identified that might prevent more customers from coming downtown to the previously quarantined zone (below 14th Street). Survey recipients were asked to check which one(s) they thought would apply. They overwhelmingly endorsed the general economic downturn in their responses. Secondly, they attributed consumer reluctance to fears for personal safety.

33% agreed: People unwilling to get close to "Ground Zero"
33% agreed: People unaware of downtown offerings
38% agreed: People believe transportation is difficult downtown
56% agreed: People afraid, worried about personal safety and security
87% agreed: People have less money to spend on arts, culture and entertainment

Write-in responses cited: toxic chemicals in the environment (1), air quality (1), a general desire of people to stay home (1), decline in tourism (1) and the idea that the area appears depressed (1). The paucity of additional write-in responses would seem to be an endorsement of the power of the factors we surveyed for.

Of the 43 businesses reporting, 29 (67%) were operating on a regular basis at the time they were surveyed.

Patrons of the businesses surveyed were estimated to be 62% Downtown regulars, 28% "boosters" from other boroughs, and 10% tourists from out-of-town.
Since overall business loss was estimated at 40% and approximately 60% of the patrons are reportedly downtowners, this crudely indicates that isolation of Downtown was the major cause of business loss.

Of the 24 anecdotal comments submitted on the surveys, nine were mainly objective narratives, nine were overall pessimistic and six seemed optimistic.

Of the 44 respondents, 26 (59%) had received government assistance at the time of their response.


"I was just setting up business here when September 11th happened. Help with locating an affordable studio space and/or space partnering opportunities would be most helpful."

"Decrease in mortgage payment and COMMON CHARGES. Greenpoint holds our mortgage offered virtually nothing to help us recover. We have never owned any money to anyone before this. Have been running ad in NY Times for 2 months now-no luck in renting."

"Make the public more aware of street openings and closures, as well as general traffic patterns."

"Greater access to the area and additional publicity for the wonderful shops and facilities here."

"Special events that will be compelling enough to invite friends and interest others who would like to visit lower Manhattan."

"Clean up Canal Street. The assistance from Nino's and others on Canal Street has been great; but now it is becoming an ugly, dirty mess. Traffic is impaired and the presence of the trucks out on Canal Street draws a line."

"Promotional/marketing unity, discounts, special events, publicity."

"I think it would be useful to form a marketing coalition of downtown small and mid-size non-profits to try and encourage people to return to the area."

"Aid to small retail businesses at the street level to keep street traffic lively and bustling. The more empty storefronts there are, the more desolate it looks, which becomes self-perpetuating."

"More family style events. The young families seem to be scared to come down here, but the young singles are coming back."

"Release information about the quality of air, etc.. down there rather than avoid the topic and lie. Our employees are having problems such as harder time breathing, eye irritations and headaches."

"Restore telephone service urgently. Improve air quality. Organize tours to artist's studios."

"More people living here."

"Continued activity by organizations such as DowtownNYC! and Tribeca Organization."

"More direct support to ground level businesses, they work too many hours to spend time navigating the system of aid. Send people into their restaurants and businesses to help inform them of what's to be done."

"Quick improvements in transportation, return sidewalks to normal as soon as possible, favorable publicity on conditions."

"I believe that a total acknowledgment of the extent of the environmental damage and an accurate assessment and plan of abatement of toxic chemicals in lower Manhattan would encourage more individuals to venture below Canal Street."

"Barriers taken down from the sidewalks (Verizon overground cables unfortunately). Postal services in the area, mobile trucks, please."


"The mayor's office launching a campaign (for Downtown) similar to the one that saved Broadway."

"Just like the media is selling Broadway shows, they should sell off/off Broadway shows and downtown businesses."

"Redefined focus on New York theater as a whole not only Broadway."

"I would suggest that our city and state leaders urge people to go downtown and spend: eat, shop, see a show."

"Make it known that it is operating normally."

"We need more advertisements suggesting safety can be attained downtown. The average citizen has to feel committed/obligated to come to New York's downtown district."


"Instead of Mayor Giuliani paying attention to uptown like Broadway and 57th Street, he should visit west village, Soho, and Noho."

"Shared promotions among downtown businesses."

"More funding to cover lost revenue."


Because of the scope of our survey, we were not able to offer significant information on the economic impact of 9/11 on sole proprietors, self-employed professionals and individual artists. We strongly recommend this as an important area for future study.
To make the overall data more representative, we had to discard information on layoffs from two theaters in the sample: on 9/11, Dance Theater Workshop had been closed for construction and The Public Theater had made layoffs in response to a reduction in funding that was independent of general business conditions and of the attacks. So we selectively omitted their data from analysis of certain categories (layoffs and gross income loss) where it would have unfairly skewed the sample.

This is the first survey of its type. In June or July of 2002, the New York State Department of Labor's Division of Research Statistics will be able to supply a meaningful comparison to our job loss findings. The Department's source will be payroll records reflecting the periods immediately before and after September 11, 2001.


The Government Outreach Committee of DowntownNYC!
c/o Jonathan Slaff, Chairman

Email contact: [email protected]

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