A Salute to Union Square: Food to fitness — community events all year long

Last month, Jennifer Falk, the Union Square Partnership’s executive director, right, introduced new City Councilmember Carlina Rivera, center, to local residents and the BID’s business members at an event moderated by NY1 reporter Michael Scotto, left. Photos by Liz Ligon

Last year’s extensive public programming drew thousands of New Yorkers and visitors to Union Square, and this year, the Union Square Partnership is building on the momentum of the events’ successes.

“We’re constantly working to expand our programs to showcase a wide range of neighborhood partners — both brand new to the district and seasoned,” said Hannah Swerdloff, U.S.P. director of marketing and events. “We’re expanding the offerings at our marquee programs this year, so you can come out and experience even more of what the business community has to offer.”

In March, U.S.P. teamed up with the Flatiron Partnership to introduce neighborhood businesses and residents to Carlina Rivera, the new city councilmember for District 2. At the event, Rivera addressed a myriad of topics, including public space, small businesses and gender equality in city government. The discussion was led by Michael Scotto, NY1 Spectrum News’ Manhattan reporter, and was guided by crowd-sourced questions from attendees.

To kick off summer community programming, the Partnership is expanding the annual It’s My Park! Day celebration, bringing partners together to volunteer and celebrate Union Square Park. This year’s event will center on themes of sustainability, celebrating “Living Green in Union Square.” In addition to volunteering to clean the park, attendees will learn how to bring sustainability from the park into your home, through herb planting, composting, cooking demonstrations and “green” story time for kids.

As summer approaches, U.S.P. is also gearing up for Citi Summer in the Square. Presented in partnership with sponsor Citi and 30 local partners, these community events extend over three months, every Thursday from June 14 through Aug. 9. While last year’s program of more than 135 activities attracted some 17,000 participants, this year’s Citi Summer in the Square schedule is packed with more than 155 free programs for all ages, spotlighting Union Square Park and neighborhood partners.

Every season, thousands of people find Summer in the Square’s free exercise and yoga classes very moving. There are plenty more free and fun activities on the bill for this summer.

In addition to Citi Summer in the Square, classics like Karma Kids Yoga, outdoor fitness with Paragon Sports and New York Health & Racquet Club, and lunchtime performances from The New School Jazz Trio, U.S.P. is bringing exciting new programs to the 2018 schedule.

“Union Square is the fitness hub of New York City,” said Bruce Blank, owner of Paragon Sports. “Paragon has been part of this neighborhood for over 100 years, and we’ve watched the community transform and really embrace the health and wellness scene.”

In celebration of the 2018 World Cup, new partner Super Soccer Stars will host a brand new weekly program of soccer lessons and drills for children. U.S.P. is also adding new programming for Union Square’s seniors with weekly tai chi classes on the shaded George Washington Lawn provided by the 14th Street Y. And for residents and visitors of any age, U.S.P. is adding L.G.B.T. Pride this summer, with a special performance featuring “Dueling Drag Queens” during New York City Pride Week.

“We have been participating in Summer in the Square for more than five years, and have enjoyed every minute of it,” said Julie Gayer Kris, director of member experience at the 14th Street Y. “From family yoga, to partnering with Pop Fit Kids and PJ Library, we’ve been able to connect with hundreds of families each week.”

This fall, the 23rd annual Harvest in the Square will return to Union Square Park on Thurs., Sept. 20. This highly anticipated food and wine extravaganza features more than 50 local restaurant partners and more than a dozen wineries and breweries, last year drawing more than 1,200 attendees. Since its inception, Harvest has raised in excess of $6 million through the generosity of the community to support U.S.P.’s integral work to maintain, beautify and improve the Union Square neighborhood.

Among this year’s participants are esteemed chefs from the district’s best restaurants, who will showcase signature dishes with fresh ingredients from the Union Square Greenmarket. Event guests will also be able to sample wines and microbrews, and several local distilleries.

Last year’s high-profile proprietors included Harvest co-founder Danny Meyer and Chef Carmen Quagliata of Union Square Cafe, restaurant chairperson Gadi Peleg, and Israeli top chef Meir Adoni. This year, U.S.P. is proud to welcome the reimagined pavilion restaurant, Bocce Union Square, with its Italian fare alongside an outdoor bocce court on the square’s north plaza.

Bocce Union Square is a full-service restaurant slated to open in the Union Square Pavilion this May. Under the new management of Jason Leeds, Chris Johnson and Tim Meyers, the pavilion space will undergo a top-to-bottom redesign and welcome an entirely new team of hospitality professionals to the park.

This fall, U.S.P. will introduce a new series of small business forums in partnership with Citi. Each forum will cover a significant issue faced by neighborhood businesses and will range from emergency management and neighborhood development, to hospitality and food waste.

Finally, the winter marks the fifth anniversary of U.S.P.’s popular Union Square Sweat Fest. Produced in partnership with FIT + LOVE, Sweat Fest celebrates the abundance of gyms, fitness studios, athleisure retailers and healthy eateries that make up the neighborhood’s innovative health and wellness scene. Last year’s six-day program hosted 750 attendees. The festival featured new brands like Spiderbands, New Balance, SWERVE Fitness, 30/60/90 and Paragon Fit Club at Paragon Sports’ reimagined shoe department, Dept.1908.

The excitement of new and returning community events keeps pace with the dynamism that pulses through the Union Square district year round. Stay in the know about Union Square events by following @UnionSquareNY on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and sign up to receive their monthly newsletter at unionsquarenyc.org. U.S.P. would love to hear from you anytime through these channels, and hopes to see you at all of their events in the coming year.

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