Living in the Financial District
The Financial District is a hub of New York's banking world and is mobbed by tourists wishing to pay their respects at the site of 9-11. But the Financial District is also a scenic, private, and more spacious neighborhood of Manhattan that is becoming increasingly residential. Some people are trying to make the nickname 'FiDi' take off, but it's not really happening; in turn, the Financial District's history and great architecture are a better draw for the zip code. The Financial District is generally understood to be all of Manhattan below Chambers Street and is surrounded by water to the east and west (although some assert that Battery Park - the western side of Manhattan's southern tip - is its own neighborhood).
While the Financial District is thought to be exclusively commercial buildings, there is actually a great deal of high-quality housing in the Financial District. While rents can be expensive, you get much more space and quality for your buck in 'FiDi.' There are a great deal of new luxury buildings in the area that can run $1900 and up for a studio. But, bargain hunters are able to find great deals in this area with some searching and some luck. Multiple-bedroom apartments in this area tend to be cheaper - more so than in other Manhattan neighborhoods. Try tucked-away side streets and smaller buildings east of Broadway for the cheapest digs.
The Financial District seems to be overwhelming populated by 20-somethings and 30-somethings, as well as some artists making use of the high ceilings in many of the loft buildings. This area is somewhat heavily student populated, especially with a massive NYU dorm on Water Street. There are many tourists, who come to see the South Street Seaport, Wall Street, and the 9-11 Memorial Site and tons of workers who file in by morning and leave by 7pm.
While the Financial District gives some the creeps, given that the area was home to the World Trade Centers struck in 2001 terrorist attacks, it is a safe neighborhood. Adjacent to One Police Plaza, the area is heavily police-patrolled. Because the neighborhood empties out a bit at night, it's not always the most comfortable place to walk alone after 8pm - not because there are seedy characters around, simply because there is no one around.
Parks and Recreation
City Hall Park is a scenic place to eat lunch or gawk at the goings-on at City Hall. At the west, there are jogging paths and scenic places to read or tan at the waterfront, just past West Street. On the southernmost point on the island, Battery Park is a great place to take in views and enjoy some foliage in the summer months. The New York Sports Club on Broadway offers great views while guests work out.
Pubs, Clubs and Entertainment
Nightlife is not the Financial District's strong point. However, there are a variety of dive bars on the side streets east of Broadway and there are a great deal of nice restaurants and bars at the South Street Seaport (try Wine and Chill for cheap drinks that you're allowed to walk around with at the Seaport). The Gold Street Diner is a dimly-lit 24 hour joint with good food and drinks.
Shopping and Eating
There is a great deal of cheap shopping on Fulton Street, including lots of sidewalk vendors selling fake designer handbags, incense, and other odds-and-ends. The Wall Street Borders is one of the nicest and most elaborate bookstores in the city, offering readers views of Trinity Church. The South Street Seaport has a great indoor mall and a high-quality food court; plus, outdoor lounge chairs let visitors take in views of the water while getting a tan. Wall Street has recently positioned itself as an upscale destination, home to a Tiffany's, Cipriani, and Hermes.
Because of its large daytime population of workers, the Financial District hosts a wealth of lunch spots and chain restaurants (just keep in mind that they all tend to close around 9pm). For a cheap, if cheesy happy hour, head to Chevy's, a Tex-Mex after-work watering hole for the financial crowd: they have massive $5 margaritas and $5 appetizers.
The Financial District has access to the best transportation in all of Manhattan. Nearly every subway train comes to the Financial District: the 1,2,3,4,5,6,J,M,Z,R,W,A,C,E. The Financial District also has a PATH train stop at Chambers Street (for transportation to New Jersey) and houses the Staten Island Ferry at the southernmost point on the island.