WHAT IF 9/11 NEVER HAPPENED? An alternative History in New York Mag

Real Estate Agent with Compass

The current issue of New York Magazine has an all blue cover with a photo of the top of the twin towers at the bottom. In the middle of the page in white type it reads: WHAT IF 9/11 NEVER HAPPENED? On the top of the page in light blue it reads: FIVE YEARS LATER. In the right bottom corner it reads: An Alternative History. http://www.nymag.com/

Either I'm losing my sight or something Freudian happened. When I first saw the magazine I thought it said:WHAT IF 9/11 HAPPENED AGAIN? I ignored it and looked at other mail. I was not interested in seeing Manhattan underwater, or buildings collapsing or firemen in space suits or any other horrible scenario about how vulnerable we are. 

This morning while having my coffee I glanced at it again and finally comprehended that it said: WHAT IF 9/11 NEVER HAPPENED? So I opened it. It is written by Andrew Sullivan, Thomas Friedman, Jonathan Miller, Frank Rich, Tom Wolf any many other journalists and pundits. The introduction is written by John Heilmann. The introduction started out sounding like what I was afraid of:

"There are days in New York suprisingly many of them, all things considered -when it's almost possible to forget we are living in the age of terror. And then there are days like last Thursdays headlines out of London when the grim reality rises up and slaps us hard upside the head" 

It then goes on to give an interesting alternative to history. Everything from President Kerry to Mayor Freddie Ferrer to a cartoon of Rudy Guiliani sitting at his usual table at Windows on the World alone and unnoticed and not America's Mayor on September 11 2006.

The  novelist Tom Wolfe:

 "The New York real-estate market would become so hot, hot, hot that by now developers would be converting grand old hotels such as The Westbury, the Stanhope, the Mayfair; perhaps even the Plaza into condominium apartments selling for $10 million and up" (LOL)

The one that rings home with me and is the truth is from Jonathan Miller real estate appraiser, Miller Samuel. He is the absolute authority. http://www.millersamuel.com/

 "September 11 prompted this housing boom. Just before 9/11 we were in a recession; housing prices began to fall and volume really dropped off. We would have seen a continuation of a slide throughout much of the next two years. A run-up occurred as the result of the Fed's post- 9/11 action to drop interest rates, which led to a sharp decrease in mortgage rates. It's that decrease that ultimately led to the price appreciation we've seen."  

That is exactly how I remember it. That summer was slow. Prices were being reduced. I had not been in real estate that long, I remember my broker saying a correction is due. Then came 9/11 and everything changed. It was very gloomy and weird in real estate in manhattan those next few months. Nobody really knew where the market was going or where it was. I remember Brokers slashing prices on listings because they thought they had to. I remember that some buyers did walk away from deals. The Friday before 9/11 a buyer from Connecticut made an offer on a condo. I was so nervous she was going to change her mind of course I couldn't blame her. She never backed out. It's worth over a million today, she got it for $600K.

There were plenty of headlines in the news: "People fleeing lower Manhattan faster than the Titanic" Those first few months there were people from downtown who started moving to the upper west side or to the suburbs or out of state. I remember going to a Christmas party that year. It was the first time I can remember everyone very festive and in good spirits. Everyone was talking to me about real estate. I remember talking to a friend about his brownstone in the Chelsea Historic District.

January 2002 the phone started ringing. That friend with the chelsea brownstone wanted to sell his coop and move to Battery Park City. At first I was a little suprised. They evacuated battery Park City. He always wanted a direct river view and felt there was opportunity in Battery Park City. Smart man,  he wanted to face the river not ground zero. When we started looking that winter in BPC there were other smart New Yorkers with the same idea. There were bidding wars on units with great River, New York Harbour  and Statue of Liberty views. Seems 9/11 put BPC on the map. In fact Battery Park City real estate prices have increased much more than all over Manhattan.

There were lines to get into some Open Houses on the upper west side that winter and spring. At some point downtown became more expensive than upper west side and upper east and midtown manhattan. I also remember a lot of couples with babies on the way that Spring. They were all looking for 1 bedrooms with a "baby's room" a dining alcove or a large foyer. Nine months from 9/11 there were alot of babies in Manhattan. Then came the suburbanites, the europeans, the asians, empty nesters, parents buying for their kids, everyone wanted to buy in Manhattan. Everyone wants a piece of the big apple. I hope 9/11 never happens again.

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Geri Sonkin
Douglas Elliman Real Estate 516-457-7103 - Merrick, NY
Long Island Real Estate & Staging Expert

Just before 9/11 I was working with a couple from Ohio.  They were relocating and we'd finally found them the right house.  I was sure they'd change their minds after that historic day.  Contrarily one of them was on the first plane out to New York shortly after the attacks.  It was a red-eye and he was the only one on board.  He complained to me that security was lax.  They didn't take any unusual precautions, nor did they search him.  My take, there were many more of them and they probably figured they could take him if need be.

That was a terrifying time here in New York.  The only other time I remember that level of tension in the air was right after President Kennedy was assassinated.

Aug 18, 2006 03:38 PM #1
Kristal Kraft
The Berkshire Group Realtors - Denver, CO
Selling Metro Denver Real Estate - 303-589-2022

In the days after 9/11 the country pulled together.  You couldn't buy an American Flag because everyone had one, or more.  That was the only "good part" of the tragedy.  It's only been 5 years, but I fear the general population has forgotten what happened to us.  We need to pull together, we must fight these terrorists.  We cannot let them change the way we live.

Aug 19, 2006 03:42 AM #2
Teri Isner
Keller Williams Realty at the Lakes - Orlando, FL
Unfortunately this is a what if we will never know.  The effects will last for years to come.
Aug 19, 2006 11:40 AM #3
Brian Brady
San Diego VA Home Loans/858-777-9751 - San Diego, CA

I agree with Mr. Miller's analysis.  He did leave out one key factor:

Money swarmed into real estate as an alternative to the securities markets.  This means that the markey valued the security of the "buidling" at the NYSE rather than the NYSE itself.

Nov 27, 2006 07:22 AM #4
Mitchell J Hall
Compass - Manhattan, NY
Lic Associate RE Broker - Manhattan & Brooklyn

Good point Brian. You are right about the money.

 Realtors were saying "you can't live in your stock portfolio"

Nov 27, 2006 08:07 AM #5
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Mitchell J Hall

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