Paving the way toward community sustainability

Ellen Baer.

Ellen Baer.

BY ELLEN BAER  |  As we approach our six-year anniversary, the Hudson Square Connection business improvement district is working harder than ever to make sure our neighborhood reflects the creative energy and commitment of the people who come here every day. To that end, we have several major projects in the works, which, when taken together, will make our neighborhood a model of urban sustainability.

This year, the Connection, with our architects Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects and our partners at the city’s Parks Department, received the Best New Urban Amenity Award from the Municipal Art Society for creating the Hudson Square Standard, a platinum model for urban forestry that reimagines the potential for urban sidewalks and tree planting.

Unveiled in 2012 as part of “Hudson Square Is Now” — our five-year, $27 million streetscape improvement plan — the Standard reimagines the potential for urban sidewalks by making small changes to streets’ design and structure that can yield major environmental and health benefits. Its innovation is best observed below the ground, where trees are planted in expanded subterranean plots to give their roots more room to grow. Bordered by tree guards, the plots are surrounded by permeable pavers over layers of structural soil that absorb and retain excess storm water — critical to relieving the city’s overburdened sewer system and mitigating flooding.

With our contribution of $1.2 million to Parks and the New York Tree Trust, we have taken on the ambitious goal of planting and retrofitting 300 trees throughout the neighborhood over the course of a three-year period using the Standard design. To date, we have planted 80 trees, retrofitted another 58 and installed 5,200 square feet of permeable pavement throughout the neighborhood, which was previously comprised of impervious surfaces subject to combined sewer overflow after heavy rain.

In addition, the Connection and the city are engaged in a public-private partnership for the $6 million renovation of the public space at the intersection of Spring St. and Sixth Ave. a.k.a. Soho Square.

Our design will increase the number of healthy trees on the site from 36 to 42 using the Hudson Square Standard, which will, in turn, increase the park’s permeable surface by 27.5 percent, capturing 79.5 percent more storm water. The new park’s additional benefits will include a drinking fountain;  four solar-powered compactors for waste and recycling; distinctive, energy-efficient lighting that will provide a safe, inviting atmosphere; and ample seating, with 120 moveable chairs, 29 moveable tables, 24 benches and 20 swivel chairs that will feature a unique design that will be a first in the city’s parks. We anticipate breaking ground on the project in spring 2016.


PROGRESS


When our entire streetscape plan is complete, the Standard will produce some very impressive figures on an annual basis for our community: 2,480,700 gallons of storm water will be captured (equal to the amount of water used by 25 residences a year); 132,000 pounds of carbon dioxide will be reduced from the atmosphere (equal to 34 round-trip flights between New York City and Los Angeles); and 15,300 pounds of oxygen will be produced (equal to the amount of oxygen consumed by 40 people a year). The trees and plantings will also make Hudson Square six degrees cooler than it is today.

Decades ago, when this area was the Printing District, our streets were for trucks and our sidewalks were for loading and unloading.

We look forward to improving upon the quality of life for our workers and residents alike as we continue to beautify our public spaces, enhance the retail environment and create a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood — a place for people.

Baer is president and C.E.O., Hudson Square Connection

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