A Year in Planning, FiDi Neighborhood Association Makes Its Debut

Patrick Kennell, president of the Financial District Neighborhood Association, speaking at the organization's first meeting. Photo: April Koral/Tribeca Trib

Feb. 16, 2016

The Financial District’s burgeoning residential community now has its own neighborhood group, and a crowd of more than 100 FiDiers showed up last week for its debut.

At a meeting of the newly formed Financial District Neighborhood Association, local elected officials offered words of praise and encouragement to the fledgling organization and neighbors brought a host of issues and projects for the group to take on.

"Thank you for showing up," Sienam Lulla, one of the organizers, told the audience with heartfelt appreciation. "This moment is absolutely epic."

Patrick Kennell, the association’s president who lives with his family on John Street, recalled that it was about a year ago when he and a few others got the idea to form an organization for what was becoming an increasingly residential neighborhood.

Showing a map of the area, he pointed out the large residential towers that are sprouting up. "Seventy thousand now call FiDi home," he noted. "And we will soon have 11,000 new neighbors."

"We need a grassroots organization that could help us mobilize quickly if we have issues," he continued, "and to help us work on quality of life issues that we all see."

State Sen. Daniel Squadron encouraged the audience to “stick with it,” though the rewards might be slow in coming.

"Creating something formal is such an important part of making sure that a community is heard, is effective, and is ready when problems arise," he said, adding, "I look forward to getting a call from one of your elected board members, saying, ‘We have to meet with you, we're very unhappy.' That's a good sign."

To which Kennell gently reminded the group, “We want to be positive.”

"It's time for us to give back instead of complaining,” he explained. “Let's see what we can do to make some positive changes in the neighborhood."

The association, he said, wants to take on such projects as street beautification ("to give our streetscape that neighborhood feel"), adding planters  ("that would also prevent trucks from parking on the sidewalk") and throwing block parties. Maybe, too, they could work to get a library or an outpost of Manhattan Youth's Downtown Community Center. Then there are the more serious issues to confront, such as construction noise and flood protection. "We want to focus on things that we can achieve, things that we can deliver on," Kennell said.

When it came time for the audience their own suggestions, they picked up markers and Post-Its to stick on boards hung around the auditorium.

Soon the boards began filling up with suggestions. Ideas ranged from converting Pine Street into a pedestrian walkway and enlivening scaffolds with art to organizing neighborhood poker games and staging Shakespeare in Battery Park.

Kathleen Kulenych, who has lived in the neighborhood for nine years, was interested in historical preservation. "This is the oldest neighborhood in New York and has so many beautiful buildings," she said.  "I'd like to be on a committee to preserve them and help people learn about them more."

Sherry Bijan needed several Post-Its for all her ideas. On one she suggested a babysitting network, another for engaging the area's homeless in clean-up efforts in lieu of food and housing vouchers, and yet another for starting a professional mentorship network. "I'm an old hand at neighborhood associations and business improvement districts in California," she said, "so I'm very excited to become active."

The next meeting of the Financial District Neighborhood Association is April 14, 6:30 pm, at Maiden Lane Hospitality, 180 Maiden Lane.