PROGRESS REPORT: Onetime Printing District now a people place

Ellen Baer.

BY ELLEN BAER | When we began the Hudson Square Business Improvement District in 2009, no one quite knew what to make of the former Printing District. Somewhere west of Soho and south of the Village, with its half-full loft buildings and rush-hour streets packed with cars bound for the Holland Tunnel, the area lacked an identity of its own.

Eight years later, two rezonings, 250 new trees, dozens of creative industries and boundless energy have put Hudson Square on the map. This last year has been another year of milestones in the evolution of this authentic, Lower West Side neighborhood.

At the heart of what we do at this BID is our commitment to make Hudson Square a place for people — not just cars and trucks. This commitment is demonstrated through our signature programs, including our Pedestrian Traffic Managers, who help steer pedestrians through evening rush-hour traffic along Varick St. This year, we extended the program to five days a week, and over the holidays some of Santa’s elves returned to assist and provide holiday cheer and safety. Our quirky elves danced through Hudson Square, spreading festive spirit and quickly becoming wildly popular among locals and visitors.

We continue to invest in the public realm through our $27 million Hudson Square is Now campaign, a public-private partnership with the city. In April 2017, the Parks Department and community leaders joined us as we broke ground on the new Spring St. Park at the corner of Spring St. and Sixth Ave. Since then, we’ve watched our design come to life with new concrete / pavers, new custom seating, lighting and plantings — even the statue of General Artigas got touched up. The park will soon be open to the public.

Meanwhile, last fall, students at the adjacent Chelsea High School’s C.T.E. program worked with mentors from Hudson Square agencies to adorn the construction fencing around the park project with creative expressions of what our neighborhood means to them. So, even before it opens, the park belongs to our community.

We also kicked off another initiative of Hudson Square is Now, partnering with the city’s Economic Development Corporation and Department of Transportation on a major investment for the Hudson St. streetscape between Canal and W. Houston Sts. The new design will improve pedestrian, bicycle and vehicular safety, while transforming the corridor into a grand boulevard that will beautify the neighborhood. This project will widen sidewalks up to 5 feet and add new street amenities along the seven-block corridor, including 8,041 square feet of planting areas filled with various trees, shrubs and perennials, and more.

Since 2013, we’ve maintained the seasonal open spaces surrounding the Holland Tunnel called Freeman Plaza. In May 2017, we reopened Freeman Plaza East (at Varick between Broome and Watts Sts.) with a world-renowned, 12,000-pound sculpture, “Octetra,” by acclaimed artist Isamu Noguchi. Thanks to Julie and Edward J. Minskoff for loaning us this piece.

And last fall, we closed Freeman Plaza West (at Hudson between Broome and Watts Sts.) to make some upgrades. New seating, gravel and even a 900-square-foot turf lawn was unveiled during our annual opening party earlier this month. And look for new programming coming this summer.

This past year, we began exploring the idea to expand our BID’s borders in a way that makes sense. Currently our borders largely reflect the Hudson Square Special District zoning district designation but exclude what people think of as the neighborhood, making for some awkward borders. We’re proposing to extend our borders more logically, particularly to the west, southwest and to the north. We spent this last year reaching out to the community through mailings, social media, informal get-togethers and public meetings. We enjoyed getting to know our neighbors, and now look forward to entering the formal legislation approval process.

It’s hard to believe that eight years ago, when people thought of our area, all that came to mind was the Holland Tunnel. With the help of our board, task forces, Community Board 2, our partnership with New York City and, most of all, because of the creative businesses that give this place its unique vibe, Hudson Square is realizing its potential — while retaining its special charm. Hudson Square today is a place where people want to be.

Baer is president, Hudson Square Connection 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *