PROGRESS REPORT: Taking it to the streets and boosting business

Current Village Alliance staff struck a pose amid the “Paparazzi Dogs” temporary sculpture installation at Ruth Wittenberg Triangle last year.

BY WILLIAM KELLEY | The Village Alliance achieves a milestone anniversary this year as we celebrate 25 years of community service in Greenwich Village. Since 1993, the Village Alliance has been a major force in cleaning and greening our streets, beautifying public spaces and promoting the best the Village has to offer. I want to take this opportunity to highlight the work we do and where we are focusing our efforts in the coming year.

Clean and safe streets were our first priority 25 years ago and remain so today. We manage an eight-person Clean Team that sweeps the district seven days a week, rain, snow or shine. This past year, we removed nearly 1,100 tons of garbage from the Central Village, scraped, cleaned or painted roughly 23,000 incidents of graffiti, and cleared away snow and standing water from our public plazas, bus stops and corner crosswalks. Our three public-safety ambassadors also patrol seven days a week, and logged 5,419 incidents in 2017, providing valuable information for local police precincts. Over the years, we have installed and now maintain 145 tree pits, 55 street planters and 48 hanging flower baskets, putting the “green” in Greenwich Village. Looking ahead to this year, we will be renovating the tree pits along E. Eighth St. and St. Mark’s Place to make them more permeable to rainwater and promote better tree health.

Improving public open space is also at the core of what we do, from widening Eighth St.’s sidewalks and adding street trees nearly two decades ago, to the more recent Village Gateway and Astor Place plaza reconstruction projects. Our goal has been to open the street to the people, maximizing the amount of pedestrian-friendly space in Greenwich Village. The Village Gateway project brought pedestrian safety enhancements to Sixth Ave. and Eighth St., doubling the size of Ruth Wittenberg Triangle, allowing neighbors to enjoy outdoor seating while providing wayfinding for tourists. The Astor Place renovation project reconfigured underutilized streets to create more than a half-acre of new public plazas in an area of the city sorely lacking in gathering spaces. Every day we clean, patrol, maintain and program these spaces for the enjoyment of all. Our next public-space goal involves creating a public-art program for the Central Village, bringing to the neighborhood a variety of temporary installations like this spring’s “The Last Three,” by Australian artists Gillie and Marc, on view at Astor Place through May.

Through the years, we have also promoted and advocated on behalf of the local independent business community, believing that a truly successful neighborhood contains a diverse array of retail and cultural establishments. To encourage the community to shop locally, we continue to expand the Village Access Card program, now with more than 80 participants offering exclusive benefits to neighborhood residents and workers. Our small businesses need your patronage more than ever. Visit www.greenwichvillage.nyc/deals to sign up for your free card and explore the best of the Village.

We also connect community with local commerce through year-round events aimed at introducing neighbors to our retail, restaurant and nonprofit businesses. Events like the Positively 8th Street Festival, Creativity Cubed, Village Vitality, the Astor Alive! Performing Arts Series and our continued support of Taste of the Village all provide community residents with opportunities to get out and about to discover new experiences and enjoy the neighborhood, while providing valuable patronage to Village merchants. In 2018, stay tuned for Made on 8th Street events in storefronts on the Eighth of each month (Facebook/Instagram: @Madeon8thStreet).

I would like to express tremendous gratitude to our community partners, our local politicians and colleagues in government agencies for partnering in our efforts to improve the quality of life in Greenwich Village over the past quarter-century. We hope to see you out on Astor Place and throughout the Central Village supporting our local businesses, attending events and, in general, enjoying the Village’s magnificent history and character. Visit us anytime at 8 E. Eighth St. We welcome feedback and ideas on how we can make the neighborhood a better place to live, work and visit.

Kelley is executive director, Village Alliance Business Improvement District

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