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In the five years since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, attorney H. Taufiq Choudhury said that he has grown numb to the reminders he sees every day on his way to work in lower Manhattan. “I’ve gotten used to it,” he said. “The feeling is not as sharp.” An immigration lawyer, Choudhury initially relocated his solo practice from the 22d floor of 1 World Trade Center to midtown Manhattan after the attacks. But today, his firm, which also endured the 1993 trade center bombing, is back in the downtown area. There is a certain comfort for Choudhury in returning to lower Manhattan, he said, but his practice still suffers as a result of the events on Sept. 11, 2001. “It has changed for the worst,” he said. Choudhury is just one of an estimated 14,000 New York lawyers-more than 10% of all lawyers in the state-whose practices were upended when the planes brought down the Twin Towers. The businesses of virtually every lawyer working below 14th Street in Manhattan were affected by the attacks. In the towers themselves, attorneys and support staffers at about 30 law firms lost their offices and, in some cases, their lives. Starting over Five years later, some law firms have come back to the downtown area, but many others have opted to start over in areas less scarred. In Choudhury’s case, returning to lower Manhattan made logistical sense, he said, because he commutes from Jersey City, N.J., located directly across the Hudson River from the Ground Zero area. At first, small business loans helped jump-start his practice. Later, he was able to pay those off when insurance proceeds came through. He also received assistance from nonprofit groups that helped displaced businesses after the attacks. While moving back has made his commute easy, re-establishing his business has been difficult, he said. His immigration practice these days has very few new clients, he explained, mainly because of the increase in immigration “bureaucracy” following Sept. 11, 2001. Obtaining documentation and credentials for business clients and individuals has become, in some cases, impossible, he said, because of rigorous scrutiny from more federal agencies involved in the process. For a lawyer who does not bill hourly, the red tape has strangled his business, he said. “The total effect has been devastating for firms like mine,” he said. Also returning to downtown Manhattan was Thacher Proffitt & Wood, which had about 300 people in its offices on three floors of 2 World Trade Center. It now is located at 2 World Financial Center. Like Choudhury’s practice, New York-based Thacher Proffitt initially relocated its New York office to midtown Manhattan. It, too, weathered the 1993 bombing. But most of the similarities between the firms end there. “We’ve done extremely well since we’ve been back,” said Thacher Proffitt partner Omer S.J. Williams. He served as managing partner at the time of the attacks. Many businesses returning to the area were able to do so at relatively low market rates and through federal and local incentive programs. Incentives for the Liberty Zone-the area surrounding the World Trade Center site-included per-employee payments, tax credits and accelerated depreciation programs. Many incentives remain in effect to help rebuild the area that lost as much as 10% of its commercial space when the towers collapsed. But Thacher Proffitt’s decision to move its New York offices back to lower Manhattan two years ago was largely based on a “commitment to the downtown area,” Williams said. “It was an emotional thing to get back downtown,” he said. Apparently, it was a good move. Gross revenues for the 274-attorney firm in 2005 were $157 million, up almost 25% from the year before, according to The American Lawyer, an affiliate of The National Law Journal. The firm also has offices in Washington; White Plains, N.Y.; Summit, N.J.; and Mexico City. Some of the more prominent law firms with offices in or near the World Trade Center in September 2001 included Carter, Ledyard & Milburn; Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton; Drinker Biddle & Reath; Harris Beach; Hill Betts & Nash; Holland & Knight; Kenyon & Kenyon; Ohrenstein & Brown; Richards Kibbe & Orbe; and the firms then-known as Pillsbury Winthrop; and Sidley Austin Brown & Wood. Firms that have not returned to lower Manhattan include Harris Beach; Ohrenstein & Brown; Pillsbury Winthrop and Sidley Austin. Five years after the event, the pace of redevelopment has frustrated many New Yorkers. Although some transportation arteries and areas surrounding the site have been restored, there are no new structures at Ground Zero. The results of a poll conducted by Pace University and released in July showed that nearly half of the lower Manhattan residents surveyed thought the rebuilding effort was “on the wrong track.” The poll included responses from 511 residents. Critics pointed to state and local officials and developers as the culprits. Nine months, seven moves For some attorneys and support personnel at Ohrenstein & Brown, returning to the area was too painful, said partner Michael Brown. “There were too many people who would just not go back,” he said. His firm was located on the 85th floor of 1 World Trade Center when American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the building. About 35 people worked in the New York office. After the terrorist attacks, the firm moved locations seven times in nine months before settling at One Penn Plaza, where it now has about 15 attorneys, said Brown. He added that the firm has a long-term lease at its current location. It also has an office in Garden City, N.Y. The morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Brown was returning from an eye doctor’s appointment and was not in the building. Then-managing partner Geoffrey Heineman led 15 lawyers and support staff in a desperate descent 85 floors to the street. The firm lost two employees, believed at the time to have been in the elevator when the attacks occurred. Five years after the event, Brown seems to possess a degree of optimism. Business at the firm now is “fine,” he said, adding, however, that the series of moves during the last five years was traumatic. “It is both a sad and yet in some ways hopeful memory in that you get to understand how resilient people really are,” he said.

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