A SALUTE TO UNION SQUARE: Visioning and planning report coming soon

The Union Square Partnership is in the midst of its most robust community engagement effort to date to develop a vision for the future of the Union Square-14th St. district that will enhance its economically vibrant, sustainable and inclusive character for the next few years — and the next decade or more.

With the help of Marvel Architects, an award-winning New York design firm focused on “the intersection of public and private space,” USP conducted its most robust outreach to date since last fall. USP has interacted with close to 1,000 residents, employees, businesses, elected officials, state agencies, Partnership board members and area visitors to create a plan for the community and guide how USP will spend future capital dollars.

Marvel Architects solicited input with “neighborhood pop-ups,” like this one. (Courtesy Union Square Partnership)

USP is gearing up for a big public announcement in July that will detail this initiative’s findings and recommendations. It will be the culmination of a nine-month process, including input and analysis from two public forums, more than a dozen listening pop-ups, residential building visits, commercial office events, and one-on-one conversations with community stakeholders.

“While the area has undergone an extraordinary evolution over the last 20 years, and today serves as a vibrant and welcoming part of New York City for residents, businesses and visitors, we need to look ahead to ensure the district’s continued vibrancy and that we meet the needs of New Yorkers and visitors well into the future,” said Jennifer E. Falk, USP’s executive director. “As Union Square continues to evolve, the Partnership is committed to implementing innovative programs that will further enhance the district and position the neighborhood for continued growth.”

The project’s overall goals are to improve the core of the district and its connections east, west, north and south; create more green spaces and places for respite and interaction along area streets; balance space, mobility and livability in high-traffic areas while reinforcing economic vitality; smooth use of the district’s public spaces over different days, weeks and seasons, and balance vitality across overcrowded and underused public spaces in the district and in Union Square Park.

“Improving one of the city’s most loved and lived public spaces is the greatest design challenge,” said Guido Hartray, a founding partner of Marvel Architects. “We have spent six months understanding the subtle interactions of the square and the neighborhood around it to propose a vision that enhances the qualities that make it the heart of the city.”

Participants offered planning ideas for 14th St. and the Union Square area at a brainstorming session. (Courtesy Union Square Partnership)

Based on the community feedback, Marvel is developing distinct project concepts focused on Union Square West/Broadway “Gateway,” Union Square Triangle Park and the Union Square district’s streetscapes.

Just a few of the ideas that have emerged include more art, trees, pop-up food kiosks and additional seating for Union Square streets. On the square’s east side, Triangle Park, now underutilized, could be re-envisioned with more greenery, additional seating, and some kind of vendor or kiosk.

The community expressed strong interest in a shared pedestrian space from the 17th St. Broadway Plaza down Union Square West and connecting to University Place. Ideas also called for landscaping and seating along the way.

For the core of Union Square Park, the neighborhood’s crown jewel, there was consensus on the importance of movable furniture and a demand for additional seating. There were also suggestions to reconfigure pathways to showcase elements, such as the central flagpole and statues, and to create respite in the center of the park.

The initiative’s data-gathering efforts included 13 “neighborhood pop-ups” set up in Union Square Park and along 14th St. during October and November. “What’s Your Vision for Union Square?” asked the text on tall white boards on which people wrote down a wide range of desires and concerns, such as “more green space” and “pedestrian safety.”

People were asked what amenities they want to see along 14th St., how the neighborhood’s green spaces and the area within Union Square Park can be improved, and for their feedback on accessibility for individuals and families.

Other ideas for new projects and programs that have emerged from Marvel’s work include adding design elements to serve as security bollards to improve pedestrian safety, adding more programming and activities for teens and youth, and creating a permanent park information kiosk. Suggestions from community members to improve existing assets include expanding seating and adding more benches to Union Square Park, upgrading the Union Square Dog Run, particularly the drainage, paving and seating, and adding composting on non-Greenmarket days.

“As a longtime neighbor in Union Square, and founding member of the Union Square Partnership, Con Edison has seen the vibrant growth and changes that have taken place in the community under USP’s leadership,” said Robert Pettenato, a USP board member and director of emergency preparedness at Con Edison. “Our employees are proud to work here, and they appreciate all the accomplishments the Partnership has achieved through its steady vision and planning to make the area so enjoyable.”

4 Responses to A SALUTE TO UNION SQUARE: Visioning and planning report coming soon

  1. ReasonShouldWin

    Let's hope that the fantasy plans for Union Square don't forget the essential things going on around it. It is certainly nice to talk about and dream of a larger, nicer park area in an area not served well by parks, but any proposed changes should factor in that people live, work, visit and must be able to do OTHER things in and around the neighborhood, as well. It isn't just about the park, but the context and space and functionality around it, as well.

    So, let's have a rational plan for this space and surrounding area, not a plan that creates additional, serious problems (like traffic, congestion, pollution and mixing of different modes of getting around this city in an unsafe, and unproductive manner).

  2. Preserve Parks and Gardens

    The public park and town square is beautiful and well utilized as is. No need for furniture, other obstructions or monetization.

  3. This is really all about attracting more tourist's and bowing down to the upwardly mobile portion of residents it is a continuation of the Bloomberg years where the big corporations and rich people were the only ones that mattered. This is about catering to people from other parts of the country and the world who came to live in the city because it is "Fun"and Exciting" but then once they settled in they gentrified it and turned it into a millquetoast strip mall.

    Union Square Park and it's surrounding areas are one of the last standing remanent's of how amazing our city used to be before the gentrification generation moved in in the 80's and ruined the East Village, they moved in and cast out the mom and pop businesses and displaced all the people who have lived in the surrounding areas all their live, the ones who raised future generations here and contributed to the culture that made up the beautiful cornucopia of the area and the city as a whole and turned it into a place where only the rich can live and chain stores flourish. meaning New York has lost most of it's vital elements that once made it fun exciting and one of the greatest art center's of the world If. Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Jean Micheal Basquiat and so many others who blessed this city were alive today they would be horrified to see what has become of this once Amazingly eclectic and beautiful city..

    Union Square park does not need more benches anyone who sits in the park knows that there is no room for any more benches without cutting down the awesome ancient trees that contribute shade and beauty.

    We don't need popup food kiosks there are enough street food vendors and many restaurants in the area to suit the desires of everyone. We don't need performance space that will congest an overly congested area. there are enough venues around the city.

    HEY!! Heres a great idea instead of ruining yet another landmark how about if you focus on building housing for the homeless and people living way below the poverty line there of which there are millions and they are disregarded in favour of the rich and upwardly mobile. And don't say that they have NYCHA developments to house them because, no one deserves to live in those developments even if the rent is great. To those who think the are so great might I suggest they try living in one of those developments.

    Yes I know that I digressed but it really needed to be addressed.

  4. Barbara Ruether

    You are absolutely on the mark, Carla. We do not need further investigation. Don't fix what is not broken.

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