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What does a non-practicing young lawyer do when her trendy downtown restaurant survives its first crucial year, only to face the prospect of going bust due to an unspeakable business interruption? If her name is Julie Menin — and if the reason for her predicament is last September’s terrorist attack on New York — she becomes a civic force of nature in the cause of resurrecting her city. Menin has had a little help from her friends: corporate attorneys at four venerable law firms; a passel of banks, brokerage houses, insurance firms and media conglomerates; and her real estate developer husband, Bruce Menin, likewise a non-practicing lawyer. Over the past eight months, the non-profit firm that Menin created — Wall Street Rising — has raised $2.25 million to tout the attractions of living downtown, opening new businesses downtown, and helping financially strapped shops stay put. “People were affected in different ways by 9/11,” said Menin, 34, the owner of Vine, a popular lunch and dinner venue for downtown lawyers. “For me, it created a sense of duty.” Like so many other downtown enterprises, revenues fell dramatically at Menin’s restaurant — so much so that she had to lay off half the staff at Vine. “But I turned over day-to-day operation to others, and concentrated on the larger picture,” said Menin, who practiced law for seven years, first at Washington, D.C.’s Wiley Rein & Fielding, then as senior regulatory attorney for Colgate-Palmolive Co. in New York. “Because I knew a lot of people at the firms downtown, I was able to do exactly that.” The Menins heed the message of Wall Street Rising. Menin’s restaurant is located at the sidewalk level of the Exchange Building at 25 Broad Street, home to Menin’s own firm — Crescent Heights Investments. They live nearby. Last month, Menin and her friends hosted summer associates from her organization’s four sponsoring law firms to a display of paintings and sculpture at the Grand Banking Hall, 48 Wall Street. The event was part of “Art Downtown,” an exhibit of $17 million worth of loaned artworks by the likes of Chuck Close, Elizabeth Murray, Louise Bourgeois, Andy Warhol, Alex Katz, Jeff Koons and Francesco Clemente. The firm sponsors were Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft; Sullivan & Cromwell; Clearly, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton; and Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson. “It was important that our summer associates understand how committed we all are to rebuilding — all of us at all the firms,” said David Strumeyer, chief administrative officer at Cadwalader. “They’ll go back to their schools and talk about how we’re keeping the faith.” Strumeyer has become a member of Menin’s Wall Street Rising board of directors. So has Christopher L. Mann, a partner at Sullivan & Cromwell and former chair of the Committee on Project Finance of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. Mann has a special memory of lawyers keeping faith in the city. “On the morning of Sept. 11, I happened to be welcoming a bunch of visiting foreign lawyers at a breakfast [in lower Manhattan, at the firm's dining room],” he said. “A lot of them were in New York for the very first time. We had to evacuate. “Two weeks later, we had a welcoming dinner,” he said. The gathering site was Menin’s restaurant. “It was quite a remarkable night, with everyone coming back,” Mann said. “You could still smell the smoke. I’d been afraid that all the non-U.S. lawyers would get on a plane and leave.” As Mann and his party were departing for the night, Menin popped her proposal. “Julie said we should do something on a non-governmental basis, that we should start up an organization focused on the private sector and residents, business owners and workers,” said Mann. “As it happened, I remembered her husband, Bruce, from his associate days at Sullivan Cromwell.” Thus was born Wall Street Rising. “It’s working,” said Strumeyer of the project. “This might sound weird, but it seems almost normal again. My shoeshine guy is back. My pizza parlor is back.” Daily life in downtown Manhattan was “dreary and depressing” for months after the terrorist attacks, said Mann. He added, “But now there’s a lot of excitement about the opportunities in rebuilding. “We’ll have a new transit hub, new cultural activities — the New York City Opera might move down here,” he said. “Events like ‘Art Downtown’ are a way of making people aware that we’re coming back.” Menin said her work is far from over. “We’re seeing encouraging signs, but so many small businesses are still really struggling,” she said. “It’s going to be a long road — five to 10 years.” For the long haul, Menin is looking uptown. “The midtown law firms have an interest here,” she said. “Corporations city-wide have an interest. “We all have a stake in maintaining lower Manhattan as the financial capital of the world.”

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