Union Square: East Side transforms — Tammany, tech hub, trees

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This winter, Mayor de Blasio, flanked by Jenn Falk, the Union Square Partnership’s executive, to his left, and Borough President Gale Brewer, to his right, unveiled one of the city’s first superfast NYCLink Wi-Fi kiosks, on Third Ave. in the Union Square area.

A flurry of development is bringing a new look to Union Square’s east side. With several major projects underway, real estate development, renovations and upgrades are breathing new life into neighborhood institutions while the district continues to rise in popularity.

Reading International is anchoring the east side of the neighborhood with the redevelopment of the historic Tammany Hall, transforming the property to offer more than 75,000 square feet, with a focus on retail and office space. Marketed by Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, the newly rebranded 44 Union Square will bring more than 30,000 square feet of retail space at the gateway to Midtown South’s Park Ave. South corridor.

The redeveloped site will feature a glass dome designed by BKSK Architects, adding two floors to the building, as well as facade restoration, new signage on the front of the building and new entrances and windows. Design plans also call for restoring parts of the building to their original appearance at the time the structure was completed in 1929, including two windows on its E. 17th St. side that will be changed back into doors.

“Tammany Hall is one of Union Square’s most iconic structures, and this redevelopment will highlight some of its most beautiful details,” said Jennifer Falk, executive director of the Union Square Partnership. “With the high demand for office space in the district, we expect to see a lot of interest in the property.”

The historic monument to machine politics was finally landmarked by the city in November 2013, after longtime lobbying by the Union Square Community Coalition, among others. The dome addition, however, didn’t sit well with some.

“We pressured the Landmarks Preservation Commission for 29 years to landmark Tammany Hall — and now we got into this,” local preservationist Jack Taylor lamented of the dome after L.P.C. O.K.’d it in March 2015.

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Renovations at the former Tammany Hall building, at 44 Union Square East, include adding two floors and a dome. The building will include 30,000 square feet of retail space.

In a city where office space is increasingly difficult to find, Union Square will soon offer a new space for technology start-ups and creative companies to call home.  Last November, the New York City Economic Development Corporation announced its plans to transform the P.C. Richard site at 124 E. 14th St., calling for proposals to redevelop the city-owned site into a new tech hub. E.D.C.’s request for proposals encouraged prospective developers to build office space for technology and creative businesses, including start-ups that outgrow incubators and co-working spaces.

“Union Square’s central location, accessibility, and wealth of tech and creative companies — big and small — makes it an ideal choice for the new development,” said Kriss Casanova, director of economic development for the Union Square Partnership. “This is another terrific example of E.D.C. finding creative solutions for businesses, which are hard-pressed to find adequate space in this city.”

Changes are also coming to Mount Sinai Beth Israel. The Phillips Ambulatory Care Center, at 10 Union Square East, is undergoing construction, updating its facade, and expanding and remodeling the lobby. The new lobby will feature a contemporary glass stairway to the second floor. These renovations mark the first step in an overall renovation and redesign of the facility. Construction is already underway on the facility.

With a high concentration of technology companies and innovators based in the district, Union Square was a natural choice for the city’s first beta location for LinkNYC, an initiative to transform the city’s payphone infrastructure into Wi-Fi kiosks. This winter, four new Wi-Fi kiosks were installed along Third Ave. between 15th and 19th Sts. Each Link provides a variety of services, including a touch-screen panel to access city services and directions, make free domestic calls and charge mobile devices with USB ports. The Wi-Fi network uses a special fiber-optic network that delivers speeds up to 100 times faster than your average public Wi-Fi.

With the square’s many changes and new developments on the way, the Union Square Partnership BID is playing its own role in the east side’s makeover by continuing its ongoing beautification efforts.

To keep up with demand placed on the district’s busy streetscape, the Partnership’s Clean Team works seven days a week to maintain and beautify Union Square. Made possible by neighborhood partners — including Con Edison, The New School, New York University, Mount Sinai Beth Israel and Union Square Hospitality Group and many others — the Partnership’s work includes the beautification of Union Square Park, providing landscaping, sanitation services and ensuring that the park remains a clean, safe and fun environment.

In addition to its extensive landscaping work in the park, the Partnership is overhauling the median malls along Union Square East and Park Ave. South. With help from its partners at ORDA Management and the city’s Parks Department, the Partnership’s work will bring 80 new trees and a brand-new landscaping design to the district’s east side.

“The Union Square Partnership is proud to invest in the maintenance and beautification of Union Square Park, to keep up with our district’s growing popularity,” said Falk. “As our dynamic district continues to grow and attract new businesses, residents and visitors, we look forward to these developments becoming part of the fabric of our vibrant community.”

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