- Associated Press - Friday, May 20, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) — Four months ahead of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, New York City started a campaign Thursday to lure tourists to the area surrounding ground zero with hotel deals and discounts meant to showcase how lower Manhattan has rebuilt since the terror attacks.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday said the social media and marketing campaign — to include restaurant promotions, merchant discounts and citywide advertisements — would celebrate the revival of the Manhattan neighborhood decimated in the attacks.

“A crucial part of the story of 9/11 is how lower Manhattan — an area many people said Osama bin Laden’s attack would turn into a ghost town — has come back remarkably in the last 10 years,” Bloomberg said at a news conference held on restaurant-lined Stone Street, which now attracts bustling crowds in the after-work hours.

In the years after the attacks, many people moved to the area, drawn there, in part, by government rent subsidies meant to revitalize the zone. The 2010 census found that the district including the neighborhood had grown more than any other in the state, said Democrat Rep. Jerrold Nadler, who represents the area.

A lucrative tourism industry has sprung up around ground zero — which is now top among many visitors’ lists of city must-sees. Around the massive construction site that marks the area where the twin towers once stood, vendors hawk glass figurines of the buildings and some salesmen offer picture books depicting the destruction of the attacks.

On Thursday, Bloomberg dismissed any notion that the marketing campaign means the city was looking to profit off the attacks.

“9/11 was one of the great tragedies that befell this country,” he said. “One of the things that we have to do is to tell everybody about what happened” and “get people to come here so that we can tell the story.”

Lower Manhattan has 17 hotels and about 5,000 hotel rooms, with 770 more rooms expected by the end of the year. NYC & Company, the city’s tourism arm, is offering visitors walking tour itineraries and information on museum exhibitions, outdoor festivals and landmarks in the area.

Joe Daniels, president of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, has said that after the memorial’s opening on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, about 4 million to 5 million people are expected to visit the site in the following year. Access to the memorial plaza will be limited to a set number of people, but Bloomberg said that he doesn’t expect that to prevent people from visiting the site.

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