Volume 73, Number 3 | May 19 - 25, 2004

A special Villager supplement

Larger playground, new surface planned at north end

By Albert Amateau

The Department of Parks and Recreation and the Union Square Partnership are still working on a final design for the long-awaited reconstruction of the north end and public plaza of the historic and heavily used Union Sq. Park.

But the city and the Partnership, which is committed to raising private funds for the project, agree that a new and larger playground will replace the two smaller existing playgrounds and that the pavilion on the northern end will be restored for use as a year-round restaurant.

“We’re drafting a request for proposals for the pavilion and expect to issue it this summer,” said Eric Adolfsen, a Parks spokesperson. The R.F.P. will ask potential restaurant operators to make a capital commitment to the reconstruction of the pavilion, he said.

The public plaza north of the park where the Union Sq. Greenmarket operates four days a week will get an attractive new surface designed to enhance the Greenmarket. Trees and other plantings will be added to the north edge of the plaza, he added.

“We intend to make the plaza a beautiful gateway to the north entrance of the park, keeping in mind the needs of the Greenmarket,” said Karen Shaw, director of the Partnership, the group that operates the Union Sq. BID and has commissioned a preliminary design of the project by William Van Valkenburgh Associates, landscape architects.

The Partnership’s recent contributions to the park include funding for new interior fences that conform to the historic character of Union Sq. and engaging Emenity, a firm that provides wireless Internet service. “Now you can go into the park with your laptop computer, sit on a bench and get a wireless connection to the Internet,” Shaw said.
Community Board 5, whose district encompasses the park, last year called on the Department of Transportation to study pedestrian and vehicle traffic at the northern end of the park in connection with the reconstruction. The board suggested traffic-calming measures for 17th St. and Union Sq. W.; the possibility of additional pedestrian space and the elimination of a lane of auto traffic on 17th St.; the possibility of making 17th St. one-way eastbound between Broadway and Park Ave. S.; the impact of expanding the plaza on 17th St. traffic and the impact of traffic changes on surrounding streets including 14th St., Union Sq. E. and Union Sq. W.
D.O.T. has acknowledged receiving the request but has not replied, said Kyle Merker, chairperson of the board.


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