A Changing Downtown: Kids Take Over Downtown Manhattan
A version of this article was submitted to Professor Paul Glader as a final paper submission in his Introduction to Journalism class during the Spring 2015 semester. For the final paper, students were instructed to compose a long form article about how downtown Manhattan is changing, using statistics from Community Board 1 and conducting interviews. The Tribeca Rooftop, a sky-high event venue in lower Manhattan, offers rooms and rooftops that are typically rented for weddings and special events, but on Sunday mornings, the fancy seating is covered with diaper bags and the stark white walls are lined with strollers and scooters.
Families young and old gather on the eleventh floor of the Tribeca Rooftop, the location of Lower Manhattan Community Church (LMCC). The kids’ ministry, which serves infants through eighth graders, is steadily growing. On a typical Sunday, around 60 kids arrive for the 10:30 a.m. service. On Easter Sunday, attendance rose to 90 kids, with ages ranging from infants to fifth graders.
For a church in downtown Manhattan, a rapidly increasing child population is not surprising. According to Community Board 1 reports, Tribeca’s population of children ages 5 - 9 has increased 69 percent from 2000 to 2010. And for children under age four, the population has increased almost 200 percent. Because of this population boom, lower Manhattan is becoming more and more kid-centered. Areas such as the Financial District, the home of the "Wall Street" world, the New York Stock Exchange and many financial businesses and corporations, are now housing families.
In all areas of the Community Board 1’s districts (with the except of the Seaport/Civic Center), child population has grown. In Battery Park City, the number of children between the ages of 0-19 has increased by 125 percent. In Tribeca, the same number has increased by 67 percent. And in the Financial District, the same number has risen to 246 percent. The appeal of raising a family near a parent's (or parents' ) workplace has caused the part of Manhattan known for stocks, bonds and chrome-sporting skyscrapers to look for ways to embrace young families.
As her daughter Kate dug curiously through her jacket pockets, Brittany Holladay, the wife of Ryan Holladay, lead pastor at LMCC, explained why her family lives in downtown Manhattan. “Living in TriBeCa is super kid-friendly and it just made sense,” said Holloday.
The Holladays have four children: Reese, Anna, Kate and another daughter on the way. Holladay said that she is more than happy with her decision to move downtown. The young family had previously lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn, which Holladay said was very similar: “[Park Slope had] lots of parks and kid-friendly places…unlike some other boroughs, where you get dirty looks from people if you bring kids into a restaurant."
A California native, Holladay has found raising kids in downtown Manhattan, an island with 1.6 million residents, to be easier than she had originally thought. Manhattan living is what she and her girls know and have come to accept and adjust to, so anything else seems foreign. “Being back in California to visit family, and having to set-up car seats was stressful…subways and walking are just how we get around,” said Holladay.
]The surge in the number of children living in downtown Manhattan has lead to the launching of numerous businesses designed to cater to these new residents. Angela Morgan has worked at two of these kid-centered businesses, “Clowns.com" and “Kulinary Kids.” She is an LMCC employee who works every Sunday, predominantly in the nursery. She also babysits and nannies for several families in New York City. In her numerous experiences with Manhattan children, she has seen what the children growing up in the craziness of New York are like, and what companies will do to please them - and their parents.
She first worked for Clowns.com, a company that provides entertainers and performers for children's birthday celebrations, which she called “easily the most insane organization I have ever had the privilege to work for” in an email. Parties from the clown rental service can last anywhere from one to two hours. No matter how long the party, Morgan said she tried to be as “…Disney-like as I could. I hugged everyone, made eye-contact, smiled, and posed for pictures.”
“They [her customers] loved it, and I loved getting to feel like I had won a lifetime achievement award simply for putting on an ill-fitting wig," she said.
Though Morgan enjoys working with children, she is amazed what parents in Manhattan consider to be an important investment in their child’s development. She worked at “Kulinary Kids,” which provides cooking and baking classes for young children, where one trial class costs $50 per child. Morgan often wonders why parents can spend this much money on things that are easily defined as unnecessary. As a nanny, Morgan questions, “Most of these families have nannies. Why not cook with the nanny? Or the parents cook with the children themselves," she said. “But it’s a means of employment for me, so I can’t really complain.”
The children she has worked with have made an impression on her. “In my experience, Manhattan children are sweet, but quite entitled. And that’s coming from an American citizen of Generation X,” said Morgan. When she was working for Clowns.com at a birthday party, Morgan said she and her partner tried organizing a dance party, but to no avail.
“For one second my back was turned, to a small group of four-year-old boys, and all of a sudden I heard ‘leeeet’s get her!’” said Morgan. Four boys pulled her down to the floor with a hula-hoop, and despite this behavior, the parents “did not budge an inch.”
While people can debate the privileged attitude of these Big Apple babies, they cannot escape the reality that they are here and the numbers continue to rise. LMCC is just one, small, tangible example of the changing face of the Financial District.
Around the remaining children and their parents, LMCC's child care employees, clad in blue shirts with "LMCC KIDS" written in bold script, tear down tents and box up toys scattered around the floor in preparation for next Sunday. The Holladay girls head out - Reese hops on her purple scooter and Anna on her pink scooter as Kate, scooter-less but still wearing a giant purple helmet, hobbles along beside them. For them, lower Manhattan is home.
Photo Source: Pavement Pieces