Lessons for Boston in New York City's Recovery From 9/11?

Boston Marathon bomb explosion
Boston Marathon bomb explosion

By Colin Croughan and Graham Wood

Realtor Vickie Cox can't help but think about her native New York as Boston struggles to cope with the tragic bombings at Monday's Boston Marathon. She's an agent at the Rye, N.Y., office of Sotheby's International Realty -- a suburb just 20 minutes outside of New York City -- and she remembers 9/11 like it was yesterday. She also happened to be running in the Boston Marathon on Monday, and those terrible memories of the 2001 terrorist attacks came flooding back as she watched smoke pour over runners' heads.

"I was running down Boylston Street. ... I crossed the finish line and stopped with the other runners and started walking," Cox told AOL Real Estate. "It was no more than half a city block from the finish line, and suddenly there was a very, very loud, deafening boom from behind us.

"There was this mushroom cloud of white smoke. My first thought was that something had gone wrong with the marathon equipment or something by the finish line. Ten seconds later, the second explosion went off -- that was when everyone started running. It was very frightening, and being a New Yorker, I immediately looked to the sky. All of the sudden, it was fresh in my mind -- it reminded me very much of 9/11."

Cox was also reminded of something else: some of the lingering impact on that community immediately following 9/11. She remembers, for instance, how the Westchester County housing market took a dive in the months following the attacks. "The rental market completely fell off," Cox said. "There was a huge drop in the people being transferred [to our office], there was a great concern in Westchester for sure." (Of course, though many New York residents left the city after 9/11, any population dip has more than recovered since. The population in and around Lower Manhattan, where the Twin Towers fell, doubled between 2000 and 2010, according to Census data.)

Once the shock of Boston Marathon bombings wears off -- reports on Tuesday put the casualty count at three and the number of wounded at more than 170 -- one question might become: How will that city's neighborhoods be affected by the apparent terror attack? "It's really too soon to say," Cox said. "I'm unsure about what the effect will be. Boston is a beautiful place, a historic place, with a strong group of people and a strong community." Several big real estate firms with Boston branches declined to comment for this article, but Cox pointed out one thing: A lot of student housing is in the area where the blasts occurred. Might they be reluctant to come to the city's colleges. "Obviously, a drop in student enrollment means a drop in student housing," she said.

Many others doubt that the tragedy will have such an impact on Boston. One Facebook commenter responding to a question on AOL Real Estate as to whether the Boston Marathon bombings might scare people away from the city said: "A tragedy can happen anywhere at any time. Have people stopped moving to New York since 9/11? Have people stopped moving to Colorado since James Holmes?" Another added: "Wouldn't change my mind. ... Boston's a great city!"

Katerina Canyon, 37, a poet who was recently accepted to the Fletcher School at Tufts University in Boston, said that Monday's bombings won't stop her from moving there from Los Angeles. "The sad reality is that these bombings could have happened anywhere, and we cannot live our lives in perpetual fear of what may happen. Bad events aren't exclusive to one location. All you can do is try to live the best life you can while you have the chance."

Right now, Boston residents are reaching out to those displaced by the bombings. According to MainStreet.com, neighbors are using local websites to offer shelter, and Boston.com is hosting a forum where those affected by the bombings can reach out for help.

See also:
10 Most Diverse Neighborhoods in America

5 Cities Where Homes Are Still Cheap

Signs the Housing Recovery Has Moved Into Your Neighborhood

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Tragedy Hits Boston
Tragedy Hits Boston