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Down by the Frozen Zone

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TriBeCa had recently been a place where Shalom Harlow could dine without makeup and with little notice, and Tom Green and his wife, Drew Barrymore, could walk their dog unaccosted, and Ed Burns and Heather Graham could quietly walk into the bank. Lately, however, celebrities were nowhere to be seen -- though someone reported hearing news of the Pentagon attack from Michael Imperioli of The Sopranos. But the Odeon fed a table of firefighters in their gear; and a neighborhood usually cool toward celebrities in its midst shifted. People approached the firefighters, thanked them, just seeming to want to get close.

"We're all in this together -- that's the feeling," said one school director. The Knitting Factory offered free space to the Park PreSchool, which was in the frozen zone, as did the Civic Center Synagogue on White Street. Even Eden Day Spa chipped in massages to workers.

Realtors and boutique owners put the most hopeful face on things. "I don't know if I'm opened or closed," said Guido Zwicker of Pescepalla Docks gallery, which was open but had no customers all week. Real estate is, in part, a location game -- TriBeCa had been a walk-to-work location for the financial crowd. The real-estate market may remain strong. "It's all about space in Manhattan," and the neighborhood still has plenty of it, said Ken Malian, TriBeCa sales manager for Douglas Elliman.

Some restaurateurs worried, too. "A lot of our customers are in the financial business," said Henry Meer, chef and owner of City Hall restaurant, which tossed out tens of thousands of dollars of spoiled food. "Prior to last Tuesday, it was fragile, and this was a huge economic blow."

There was a larger concern. "Will people want to do fine dining near ground zero?" asked one chef at Bouley. Sometimes, as one store owner remarked, "it's hard to believe the limos will ever line up again."

The streets will open to traffic soon. Each day brought cleaner sidewalks. Food Emporium's rotten stock -- the stink had infiltrated nearby apartments -- had been thrown away. And yet, perhaps oddest of all, some wondered -- even hoped -- that a few of the changes would last. They liked what they sensed in the new TriBeCa -- it was as if the village of TriBeCa had rediscovered its true self. "Maybe it will be like Greenwich Village now, more neighborhoody," said one store owner.

"Maybe TriBeCa will become artists and families again," said Berman, who's living temporarily in the Gramercy Park Hotel. "Maybe we won't have to worry about high-end furniture places taking over every conceivable space."


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