Progress Report: Central Village — Enhancing streets and businesses

BY WILLIAM KELLEY | As we move into the busy 2016 summer season, the Village Alliance would like to thank our neighbors, merchants and friends for your continued support.

Major highlights this past year include implementation of pedestrian safety improvements to Eighth St. and Ruth Wittenberg Triangle as part of the Village Gateway vision; the conservation of Jim Power’s mosaic poles for installation at Astor Place; and the launch of the Village Access loyalty card that provides incentives for neighbors and investment in our small businesses.

This progress report summarizes the Alliance’s major activities over the past year and looks ahead to 2016, as we strive to improve the quality of life and public space throughout the Central Village.

We had a successful year implementing the Village Gateway vision, a multifaceted approach to activate, beautify, orient and inform visitors and residents alike at one of the busiest entry points to Greenwich Village.

As part of this project, through our advocacy efforts, the city implemented safer pedestrian crossings along Eighth St. and developed strategies to increase bicycle use of the corridor.

Also, this past summer we were able to place 25 new landscaped planters and two public art installations in the district gateway, greening the neighborhood and creating a “human-scale” environment for our main commercial thoroughfare.

The final component of the Village Gateway project is currently under construction with the expansion of Ruth Wittenberg Triangle, which will extend seating opportunities for pedestrians, include wayfinding signage and shorten dangerous crossings along Sixth Ave.

VA street work

A larger Ruth Wittenberg Triangle is the final centerpiece of pedestrian safety enhancements for the Village Gateway project. Photo by William Kelley

The Village Alliance is also busy year-round caring for trees, tree pits, hanging baskets and other public landscaped areas in the Central Village. In our most thorough effort to date, 40 tree pits along Sixth Ave. were enlarged in 2015 both to improve the health of the trees and the look of the corridor, while providing more permeable area to capture rainwater.

Most of the tree pits had never seen any treatment since their installation decades ago. The results were dramatic in creating a much cleaner streetscape that is easier to navigate.

Our next major project this summer will be to install uniform planters and upgrade tree pit treatments along the University Place corridor, creating a greenway along the axis connecting Washington Square and Union Square parks.

In 2015, we introduced our neighborhood merchant loyalty program, the Village Access Card, offering deals and incentives at dozens of local businesses not available anywhere else. The program was launched last summer and expanded again this February; so far we have distributed thousands of cards to local residents and employees in Village zip codes and look forward to expanding the initiative again this summer.

To get your free Village Access Card and discover how you can support small businesses in Greenwich Village, visit villagealliance.org/deals.   Better yet, come visit local businesses yourself on Sat., May 14, at the Positively 8th Street Festival, a celebration of all things Greenwich Village featuring art, music, al fresco dining, children’s activities, games and workshops on one of the Village’s most historic retail corridors.

VA artist

Artist and entrepreneur Storm Ritter, above, brings unique art and vintage fashion to her Graey Studio at the former Whitney mansion at 14 W. Eighth St. Ritter is also an N.Y.U. alumna. Photo by Julie Brown Harwood

Building on our popular summer Saturday guided tours, we wanted to offer a way for visitors to explore the neighborhood throughout the year and draw additional visitors who will support our local merchants. Toward that end, we created a Web-based, mobile-friendly app for use on any phone that offers 25 curated walking tours, focusing on everything from art, architecture and literature to food and pop culture (villagealliance.org/tours).

The Village Alliance also supports local businesses by distributing thousands of neighborhood shopping and dining guides to New York City hotels, tourist and university information centers, and also at our Village Information Booth at Ruth Wittenberg Triangle, at Sixth and Greenwich Aves.

Our neighborhood social media channels continue to engage under the tag “Greenwich Village NYC,” reflecting our intent to provide content that appeals to the broader neighborhood, as well as to those interested in learning about and/or visiting Greenwich Village. Follow us on Facebook (Greenwich Village NYC), Twitter (@GrnVillageNYC) and Instagram (@GreenwichVillageNYC) for the latest neighborhood news, events and new businesses information.

If social media is not your thing, then visit our Web site, villagealliance.org, and subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter, The Village Beat.

Construction is nearing completion on the transformative Astor Place/Cooper Square Revitalization Project. While there are still a few short months of work left until all four of the new public spaces are open to the public at the end of the summer, the Village Alliance has been working with local government and community stakeholders so that the space is well-managed and can be enjoyed by all. The biggest question on everyone’s mind seems to be when Tony Rosenthal’s iconic “Alamo” cube sculpture will return. Although restoration of the public art piece is taking longer than anticipated due to deterioration of internal parts, we are told by the city that the beloved, spinnable artwork will return home in early summer 2016.

Reinstatement of another beloved public artwork, the mosaic light poles at Astor Place, was also achieved this past year. Jim Power, also known as the “Mosaic Man,” has been creating his “Mosaic Trail” in the East Village for more than 30 years as a way to beautify and document the neighborhood’s history. The call to preserve the mosaic poles as part of the streetscape first stemmed from outreach efforts led by the Village Alliance in 2013 to discuss future programming of the new plazas. Over the past year, a working group comprised of community advocates and city agency representatives came together to develop a solution to restore the poles to the streetscape near their original location in a manner befitting their importance to the community.

Over the past two decades, the Village Alliance has been a major force in cleaning up our streets, beautifying public spaces and promoting the best the Village has to offer. We hope to see you out on Eighth St., in Astor Place and throughout the district supporting our local businesses, attending events and, in general, enjoying the Village’s magnificent quality of life. We welcome everyone’s feedback and ideas on how we can make the neighborhood a better place to live, work and visit. Our door is always open, so feel free to drop by our storefront office at Eighth E. Eighth St. to say hello. We’ll see you around the neighborhood!

Kelley is executive director, Village Alliance business improvement district

 

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