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Written by Teodora Gaydarova   

Civic Centre

The historic neighbourhood of downtown Manhattan tucked in between the hustle and bustle of the Financial district and the rich colours and flavours Chinatown is known as Civic Centre. The area is a hub of key administrative and governmental institutions. Beside the New York City Hall and a number of important court houses, historic locations and listed buildings attract tourists to the area and make it an ideal spot for leisurely sightseeing walks.


The most notable landmark in the neighbourhood is City Hall Park with the elegant building of the New York City Hall at its heart. The land now occupied by the park has witnessed numerous events of historic importance for the United States. This is where George Washington read the Declaration of Independence in front of gathered crowds in 1776 while the funeral ceremony of Abraham Lincoln involved laying the president’s coffin on the steps of the Town Hall. Major protests and celebrations marking historic events also took place here.


While the past might have been turbulent today the flowery park with its fountain is a serene place for leisurely afternoons from where one can admire the still magnificent two-centuries old City Hall and the monumental high-rises surrounding it. The other building of historic interest in the neighbourhood is St Paul’s Chapel that is the oldest surviving church in New York. The smallish but airy temple that dates back to the mid-18th century stands amidst a sea of towering skyscrapers on the Broadway and invites with airy, light interiors embellished with ornate chandeliers – a real haven from the urban hustle and bustle.


Apart from the important historic locations and governmental organisations huddled in the area in the late 19th and early 20th century numerous businesses and newspaper companies flourished here. This is the place where the yellow press was born. The office towers erected to house the headquarters of banks and newspaper businesses are still standing tall and magnificent. However, today many have been repurposed and converted into cosy residential tenements. Yet, the local residential population is relatively small making the neighbourhood less crowded and populated than the rest of Manhattan. The quarter only becomes busy with a flurry of activity  when journalists flock here to report on notorious cases held at the local courts.


Otherwise Civic Centre is unusually calm and sleepy at weekends and even in the evenings. Outside of sightseeing there is little to no entertainment in the area. This, however, is compensated for by the proximity of other attractive neighbourhoods. To the west lies Broadway, the entertainment and nightlife heart and soul of New York. Just around the corner to the north and east Chinatown beckons with its diverse and colourful shopping, and dining offers and if Asian food is not your thing or you are a tad more picky, the nearby Financial district is chock-a-block with upmarket cafes, bars and restaurants.


Other nearby attractions are the site of the destroyed World Trade Centre to the west of Civic Park and the South Street Seaport on the banks of the East River. The latter is a lively historic area popular with tourists for its renovated historic buildings and sailing ships. There are plenty of dining, shopping and entertainment offers, as well as a range of activities and amusements ranging from boating and a farmers market to various annual events.


Business travellers who plan their visit around the Financial district and leisure travellers who  come for the entertainment of Broadway and Chinatown can stay here instead of seeking accommodation in the above overcrowded areas. Stay in Civic Centre and you won’t have to elbow your way though the crowds or hunt for parking spaces. The neighbourhood is serenely calm, quiet and safe compared to the rest of Manhattan and the good transport links and convenient location allow easy travel throughout the city.


 

 

 

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