Volume 77 / Number 40 - March 5 - 11, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Progress Report
A Special Villager Supplement

Union square/14th st.

Photo courtesy NYC Parks Department

Jennifer Falk, Union Square Partnership executive director, announcing a pilot recycling program in Union Square Park with Department of Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe.

Business improvement district’s work is paying off

By Jennifer Falk

For the dynamic Union Square district, 2007 marked another major leap forward for the neighborhood’s continuing revitalization. The eclectic energy along 14th St. and around Union Square Park is evident in the area’s rich mix of retail stores and restaurants, Off Broadway and multiplex theaters, museum and exhibition spaces, universities, hospitals and the city’s first and largest Greenmarket. The Union Square Partnership and its many partners in the residential and business communities play a pivotal role furthering the area’s growth, and the results are tangible. The district is cleaner than ever, crime is at an all-time low, foot traffic is rising and exciting new retailers and commercial tenants are moving into the area.

With all these positive changes, 2008 promises to be even better, starting with the groundbreaking of Union Square Park’s north-end redevelopment project, the third and final phase of the park’s renovation, which will take place this spring. The project will triple the playground’s size with enhanced play equipment for children of all ages and abilities; add a new restroom facility with a men’s and women’s room and a dedicated restroom with secure access from the playground area; rehabilitate the pavilion with space for Parks Department personnel offices and a seasonal concession and community space in the off season; and renovate the plaza while preserving its historic nature as a place for community gatherings and expressions of free speech.

This project will create a spectacular northern gateway to our community. We want to thank the Greenmarket leadership and farmers for working so closely with Parks and the Union Square Partnership to create a staging plan that keeps the Greenmarket in operation during its usual days and hours while allowing the construction phase of this project to commence by shifting to the western and southern plazas of the park.

Union Square Park is one of the city’s most vibrant and beloved public spaces and is also a key component to the district’s continued growth. Therefore, U.S.P. believes it is vitally important to invest in its maintenance and beautification throughout the year. Last year, we planted tens of thousands of bulbs, annuals, perennials and ornamental shrubs to ensure that the park looked its best each season.

Beyond park beautification, our Sanitation Team scours the area daily to make certain the neighborhood remains clean and inviting, and these efforts have not gone unnoticed. The Union Square district consistently receives top scores on the city’s Sanitation Scorecard, which is published by the Mayor’s Office of Operations. For the past nine quarters, U.S.P. has received 100 percent cleanliness ratings for our sidewalks. Supplementing the services provided by the city, our crews, who worked more than 29,000 hours last year, sweep the sidewalks and remove garbage from trash receptacles covering 29 block faces and Union Square Park. Last year, they removed approximately 140,000 bags of trash, representing more than 1,749 tons.

The district is the safest in its 168-year history, thanks to our partners in law enforcement. Our Public Safety Team, which logged 11,873 hours in 2007, monitors the district on foot, 12 hours a day, keeping an eye out for and reporting unlawful activity and providing information. Working to foster a safe and hospitable environment, our Public Safety Team responded to 149,124 incidents, the vast majority of which — 146,057 — were requests for information, such as directions. 

As a result of these efforts, people are coming to Union Square in record numbers. According to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, more than 30 million riders used the 14th St./Union Square subway station. In addition, our most recent pedestrian traffic count indicates that foot traffic has increased significantly from five years ago with an additional 1 million people visiting the neighborhood every week to shop, dine in our restaurants, attend theater productions and concerts or just relax in the park. 

Union Square’s transformation into a major business, cultural, shopping and residential destination is moving ahead at full speed. Demand for retail space is at a premium and vacancies are at a minimum. Last year, the district welcomed a steady stream of new businesses, including eateries like Irving Mill, Goodburger, Brick Oven Pizza 33, Maoz, The Blind Pig and Thai Me Up, new banking centers for Amalgamated Bank, Chase and Bank of America and the corporate headquarters and showroom for Nina Shoes.

To keep on top of our progress and learn more about our work throughout the district, sign up for our monthly newsletter online at unionsquarenyc.org. 

Falk is executive director, Union Square Partnership

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