Volume 76, Number 2 | May 31 - June 6 2006

A special Villager supplement

On Arbor Day, April 28, planting a Kwanzan cherry tree near the George Washington monument at the park’s southern end, from left: Gail Fox, Union Square Community Coalition co-chairperson; Tony Vargo, National Gardening Association vice president; Susan Kramer, U.S.C.C. co-chairperson; Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe; and Rose Getch of N.G.A.

North end, seating, art: My Union Square wish list

By Susan Kramer

Union Square Community Coalition has been in the business of bettering this community for over 25 years. It begins its next quarter century with many things on its agenda, some bigger and with more controversy than others, but all important to the whole of the square. Here are some of the things I hope will be accomplished, if you will, my own personal wishlist for Union Square.

* A beautiful, newly redesigned north end. We want it to enhance the pavilion, which will be restored. We want the Greenmarket folks to have access to water and restrooms. We want the construction to displace as few farmers as possible and the final result to displace no farmers at all.

* A design of the north plaza that ensures that large public gatherings and demonstrations will not be impeded.

* Clean, well-maintained year-round public restrooms, including one dedicated exclusively to the playground.

* If there is to be a concession in the pavilion, it must make sense financially (and we want access to those financials). Use of the pavilion building in the off-season should benefit the community.

* Concession money generated in our park should directly benefit either Union Square itself or the Parks Department, not the city’s general fund as it does now.

* A playground that is one large, unified space. We want it to have equipment, water elements and landscaping that is unique to our very quirky neighborhood. We’d love for it to relate to the Greenmarket somehow, perhaps have a children’s planting garden. And we want it built yesterday.

* Short- and long-term solutions are needed from the Department of Transportation that will calm traffic around the square, making it more pedestrian friendly without causing vehicular congestion. This should include serious consideration of a midblock crossing at Barnes & Noble on 17th St.

* Treatment of the square as a whole, meaning that the area from building line to building line that makes up the “public place,” and is in the jurisdiction of the Parks Department, be included in any design considerations. This includes sidewalks, streets, paving materials, street furniture, plantings and traffic flow.

* Keep the character of the square intact: to encourage landmarking of its important buildings, such as Tammany Hall; to control commercial signage within its special zoning district; to encourage district-appropriate architecture.

* Hold regularly scheduled “State of the Union” meetings with the Parks Department, Union Square Partnership, the Greenmarket staff, area business, residential and city government representatives

* More Park Enforcement Police and police officers and Parks Department staffers to oversee and maintain the park.

* More volunteers to help take care of the dogrun, to plant, help maintain the park and report problems.

* Better appreciation of those volunteers and especially our fabulous Parks Department gardener, Ann Mullen.

* More seating. Due to some generous donations, U.S.C.C. was fortunate to be in the position of being able to order a scad of new bistro tables and chairs for the “Mother and Children” fountain as well as the handsome, brand-new picnic tables near the Gandhi statue. We encourage the Parks Department to follow in our footsteps by adding even more seating.

* Control of the proliferation of street vendors on the south plaza. We’ve lost our beautiful parkland which we so recently were given. It’s nearly impossible to make a straight line across to the subway, let alone to the fountain, without stumbling through a cheek-by-jowl lineup of vendors. Let the city help us find a solution that doesn’t step on First Amendment rights, but gives us back our open plaza and parkland.

* Encouragement and support for Danny Meyer and Eric Seiler in their new spots as co-chairpersons of the Union Square Partnership for them to be open to community input and to let their new status on the partnership stimulate the flow of ideas

* Finally to get an art installation as a regular feature of the park. Are you listening, Public Art Fund, private donors and the Parks Department?

* Sunshine on U.S.C.C.’s carnival day, Sun. Sept. 10; raindate, Sun. Sept. 17.

* New, active members of U.S.C.C., including those with young families.

* And last, but not least, on a purely personal note, being able to conduct U.S.C.C. meetings that are less about procedure and more about producing results, to encourage lively discussions and open oneself up to finding creative solutions to problems.

I’m sure I left some things out that are near and dear to the friends and neighbors of Union Square. Let me know what I’ve missed from your wishlist.

Kramer has been co-chairperson of the Union Square Community Coalition for the last five years.

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