‘I felt like a New Yorker’
Rosenthal grew up in the New York metropolitan area (Newark), and attended graduate school in New York City. After spending time in Connecticut and Washington, D.C., he returned to the city in 1980 to get married.
“But in the back of my mind, there was a sense that this was temporary; that when the daughter we had in 1981 finished elementary school we’d move somewhere else; maybe to Washington. But that didn’t happen.
“After 9/11, I felt like a New Yorker for the first time,” he continues. “It became quite clear that for many of us, this is where our fate was. And that feeling has persisted.”
Many people left New York after Sept. 11, believing the city would never be the same. And it has changed, Rosenthal says, but in many positive ways.
The downtown area where the Federation currently resides has been revitalized with both new buildings and older structures converted to luxury housing.
The crime rate fell following Sept. 11 and has remained at historic lows. And the city’s population has grown to a level unseen in a half century or more.
“The pulse is very much alive in New York,” Rosenthal says. “It was extremely painful to watch the crippling [antics] among the various interest groups and real estate developers fighting over the rebuilding of the trade center. It was frustrating, embarrassing, and outrageous.
“But now the trade center has risen to more than 70 stories, and is adding a story per week, if not more. And the memorial will open this Sunday. So there’s a tremendous amount of activity.”
He likens Sept. 11 and its aftermath to a volcano that covers everything in its path. “Eventually, there’s new growth through the volcanic soil. You can’t ignore the scars, but you certainly see new life. To some degree it feels like that.”
Rosenthal plans to visit the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in October during a meeting with the Federation’s board. The organization’s new offices bring it still closer to the World Trade Center, but the group isn’t concerned about the potential safety risks.
“We feel pretty confident about the level of security here,” he says. “We’re very close to it—just a few minute walk away. We don’t live our lives in fear of what could happen again. We’ve had to be resilient. And for the most part, we are.”