Volume 78 - Number 49 / May 13 - 19 , 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

A special villager supplement

Using a hand-held ComNET computer to track conditions in the Union Square area, like a lamppost base in need of repair.

Surveys, solar bins, Wi-Fi and, but of course, flowers

By Rita Wu

Expect a few changes in Union Square in the coming months. The Union Square Partnership, the area’s local business improvement district, or BID, has been busy packing in as many amenities as it can before the start of the summer.

The Partnership spent two weeks combing the district between First and Sixth Aves. and 13th and 15th Sts., including Union Square Park and the area around it, with ComNET, hand-held computers designed to track and record street-level problems. Teams of two walk predetermined routes and record conditions, ranging from the hazardous, such as missing utility covers and obscured traffic signs, to the superficial, like scratchiti and paint peeling off garbage cans. 

Using the hand-held devices, the teams are able to upload survey information and send organized reports to the appropriate government agencies or organizations. A follow-up assessment is done to ensure the conditions have been taken care of and to identity any new problems.

ComNET was first put to use last summer. So far city agencies have been receptive and have responded promptly. The Partnership reported 770 conditions and within three months 500 of these were cleared. The remaining were conditions that needed to be worked on with city agencies, which at this point have been resolved, save for a few that involve property-owner situations. 

“We’re dedicated to making sure the district is clean and safe and making sure that government agencies are doing their job in their district” said William Kelley, the Union Square Partnership’s director of economic development.

In addition, in the park, the Partnership is adding more bistro tables and reinforcing the stone paving. By summer the park will be bursting with perennials and new additions of bleeding hearts, hydrangeas, and coral bells. Improvements are also being made to the dog run and park walkways.

The Partnership is greening and cleaning the park with more BigBelly Solar Compactor, sun-powered trash compactors. Garbage is reduced about 70 percent — a ratio of roughly four regular garbage bags to one bag of compacted garbage.

Union Square Park also has new and improved free Wi-Fi. The service can accommodate up to 250 people simultaneously using wireless devices, from laptop computers to iPhones and other P.D.A.’s. Two Altai A8 antennas are situated on rooftops at the park’s north and south ends, providing coverage to users in the park, as well as the surrounding area There’s also a local community portal Web page with event listings and recommendations on places to dine and shop.

Next month, the west toddler playground will open. By fall, a 15,000-square-foot playground for kids of all ages will open.

On Sat., May 16, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Union Square Partnership, along with the Partnership for Parks, will be hosting “It’s My Park Day,” a spring-cleaning event in the park. Volunteers can get involved by raking the lawn, planting annuals and cleaning out plant beds.

“It’s a really nice event and a way for people from the neighborhood to get involved with our efforts and also give back to the park,” said Carin Cardone, the BID’s deputy director. “People can come back and see their handiwork.”
Volunteers can sign up to participate at info@unionsquarenyc.org.

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