Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Have you seen the new Vision for Union Square?

Yesterday marked the official launch event for the Union Square-14th Street District Vision Plan.

As you may already have seen (The Wall Street Journal first had the scoop on Jan. 19), the Union Square Partnership's $100-million Vision Plan would result in a 33 percent increase in public space for the Union Square-14th Street neighborhood. 
"Initiated as a response to the proposed L train shutdown, this Vision Plan evolved as COVID-19 upended our world, and with it, our relationship with public space," Jennifer Falk, executive director of the nonprofit Union Square Partnership, said in a statement. "More open space, safer pedestrian and cyclist travel, better transit, and more outdoor seating and greenery — all of these changes are called for in this plan and will benefit our community immeasurably as we chart the district’s next chapter."

The Vision Plan proposes five key improvements: 
  1. Transform 14th Street into a world-class boulevard and transitway.
  2. Convert Union Square West into a seamless pedestrian plaza by extending the park all the way to the surrounding buildings. 
  3. Create an expansive new open space at the park’s southeast corner. 
  4. Build a Broadway Gateway at 17th Street as a permanent extension of the park. 
  5. Develop a new Master Plan for Union Square Park. 
The Vision Plan, two years in the making, must still undergo an extensive review process by the city and public, as the Journal pointed out.  

And, importantly:
There is also the question of who will pay for it. Partnership officials said they are prepared to kick in millions of dollars through fundraising and a possible bond issue but added that it will be up to the city to fund a significant share and largely handle the construction.

Partnership officials also noted that the project’s estimated $100 million cost will cover not just expansion of the park's footprint, but also other upgrades and improvements, including construction of a new accessible subway entrance with elevator and escalator.
You can read a lot more about the proposal right here. Streetsblog also weighed with some thoughts at this link.

Image via Marvel/Union Square Partnership


Anonymous said...

I'm sure all the delivery trucks, sanitation trucks, taxis, etc. are going to love it! My understanding is that this is going to take many, many years to complete if ever.

Anonymous said...

Why is it necessary now to spend that kind of money
when it's fine the way it is.
The area could use more lighting - maybe spend on that.

Choresh Wald said...

A real beauty. It would have been nice if there were more trees of course: just like the rebooted Astor Place it is a lot of Asphalt. Also the rendering doesn’t show all the vehicles that the police officers from the Union Square station will park illegally on pedestrian areas.

JAMES said...

Yeah sure ahuh....(Wait till all the Street Vendors hijack the new space and squeeze Pedestrians into the bike lanes to get around).

Beacon, NY said...

@ 6:14

Areas of wealth usually dictate where public money should be spent on fancy public spaces.

Similar to how Trader Joe's are missing in areas that have large pockets of people of color or regular middle class people. I see this dynamic play out in Westchester County where Trader Joe's are found only in upper middle class and wealthy suburban areas. The same type of scenario is found in Manhattan when it comes to neighborhoods.

Money talks as the saying goes!

Anonymous said...

More unnecessary public funding of bourgoise real estate planning.

Anonymous said...

Check out

Patriotism and Protest Union Square as Public Space, 1832–1932
by Joanna Merwood-Salisbury
December 2009
The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians

or her bite-sized article here:

How New York’s Union Square helped shape free speech in the US

Xeo said...

This is asking a lot of funding for a project that seems largely a cosmetic change.
Union Square is already extremely walkable. There are large pedestrian areas... and then of course there's the busway which reduced traffic on 14th by a lot.

What would happen is removal of traffic from Union Square East. Not to repeat the buslane arguments... but Union Square is a pretty central north south axis for cars, taxis, and trucks. Surrounding streets took the traffic from Union Square (imo as somebody from the area, the early studies saying that this didn't happen were premature. people avoided driving near the entire area for a while... but that's changed)... where would this traffic go? It's unreasonable to expect it to disappear.

Anyway, there's so many better uses for $100 million out there

noble neolani said...

Oh hell no!!! I don't want to live "Logan's Run" world. Partnership is private corporations making urban planning decisions which of course leaves citizens out of the equation, no community input, and a lot of money flying around to improve the those kicking in some money to get lots in return. Don't fall for this, it's an attempt to privatize our parks and the streets we all use daily to make it more tourists friendly and void of any resident of vendor which is not up to "new look". Don't let Manhattan become a cul-de-sac.

Carol from East 5th Street said...

Huge budget crisis. Is this really the time to spend money on revamping the park? We can't even get replacement trees on our block for the ones that died and had to be removed. Nor can we get the city to come and exterminate the rats (huge rat holes in the tree pits) that are plaguing on our block.

Anonymous said...

This is completely unnecessary bullshit, nor does the city have any money to do this.

And WTF does it mean to make 14th St. "a world class boulevard"? That is nonsensical on the face of it, b/c 14th St. is never going to look like Park Avenue or the Champs Elysee. IMO, people in city planning must be smoking some good stuff to come up with this, b/c it's a complete disconnect from all known reality.

And sure, just close off Union Square West to traffic, b/c businesses there don't need deliveries or anything, and trucks won't be able to park on that "world class boulevard" that 14th St. will be - so I guess all the retail stores go out of business there?

This "open space" plan gives more space for muggers & drug dealers and oh, yeah, the holiday market, plus more space for protesters, and no consideration for pedestrians and certainly it completely ignores the elderly or the disabled.

Anonymous said...

This plan is lovely for those who can afford to live near Union Square. However the plan calls for ending Park Avenue at 17th street to make a pedestrian plaza. So if you take a bus south to get to the subway you're going to have a pretty long walk. Park Avenue is also a major cab route that would be disrupted. Bus passengers skew older and poorer; cab drivers skew poorer and browner than the locals. Also, too much concrete, not enough greenery. I'm not sure this is where public funds should be directed right now.

XTC said...

Excellent idea, though I agree it seems a bit pricey. Btw the Champs- Elysees looks more like Union Sq back in the bad old days than a world class blvd. As a matter of fact the city of Paris just introduced a plan last week to massively upgrade the Champs and make it look not dissimilar to the above plan.

Anonymous said...

@11:20am: Excellent points you make. Basically, the city seems to wan to go in the direction of making bus/taxi trips as detour-ridden as possible.

The destruction of Broadway as an efficient diagonal thoroughfare in Manhattan will ultimately be seen as the HUGE mistake it is. Broadway, as a diagonal street, goes back literally hundreds of years (until the Bloomberg administration chopped it up), thus the idea of closing off yet another section of Broadway with a "Broadway Gateway" (why?????) is just more bad planning on top of the bad planning we already have to live with.

In a city with an aging population (and we are ALL aging!), this ultimately transforms Manhattan into a "Hunger Games" scenario: if you can no longer ride a bike or walk long distances, you're being tremendously disadvantaged, and basically "invited" to go away and live elsewhere. If anyone thinks THAT is what makes Manhattan great, think again.

I think "Vision Zero" should see an optometrist to get new eye glasses, so its vision isn't stuck at zero (otherwise known as "flying blind").

Anonymous said...

i like expanding the public space and limiting traffic but trading the coffee shop and blue water grill for chase is still a bad direction

Anonymous said...

Where's Waldo?

Anonymous said...

Wow so many downers...lose the grump and let’s invest in our community and make it walkable and world class!!!

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, anything that gets rid of selfish, dangerous, noisy, polluting vehicles is a great idea. So tired of private vehicles robbing all of us of public space; it's time for them to be squeezed out.

That said, this plan needs more trees.

Anonymous said...

More construction corruption in New York City.

Pat said...

Trader Joe's is coming to 121 West 125th Street in Harlem.

Anonymous said...

Another bland concrete plaza, just like Astor Place, which will also presumably host bland corporate "events".

14th street between 1st and A was home to all the church's flea market vendors earlier on in the pandemic, and I thought it was great! I love finding random junk now and then, but I guess they cracked down on that, just like (relatively) lax open container enforcement.

I'm getting off-topic, but I guess the point is, I would much rather have a boozy flea market than this antiseptic vision for Union Square.

noble neolani said...

@8:36 PM "Wow so many downers...lose the grump and let’s invest in our community and make it walkable and world class!!!"

Ask yourself "who" will benefit from this needed re-design of a functional and already aesthetic park and the streets which surround it? Could it be property owners and developers with buildings around and near this public space? Have thought that perhaps "world class" park, blvd, area is not code for hyper gentrified and rich friendly. De Blasio has promised "world class" makeover for the East River Park in a plan which reeks of cronyism and corruption. This is more of the same although with the added twist of private investment in our parks and streets. Do you think that private investors will not try to control their investment and make a public place more a private place.

The plan here is to make historic Union Sq into the gateway for "Mid-town south" and lead to the office and condo conversion of the East Village. Big developers win, residents lose.

Anonymous said...

$100 million... for what? FFS that’s insane.

Beacon, NY said...

Trader Joe's coming to a neighborhood near you could only mean certifiable gentrification or all your neighbors have plenty of money to shop there everyday, if not, preferably at Whole Foods.

I prefer a mom and pops that sells a niche selection of locally made organic products and locally grown produce.

Anonymous said...

"niche selection of locally made organic products and locally grown produce"

Yeah, cuz that's the inexpensive stuff that's available to all the ungentrified neighborhoods.

La vie est belle said...

This is an outrageous waste of money on a time when so many people are in need of public assistance. Make it walkable? It already is! What a ridiculous out of touch project.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect, nobody reading this blog cares about your Beacon and Westchester comparisons. Please stop.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with XTC. Good concept, but the price tag is outrageous.

Anonymous said...

I’ve never met a bunch of cynical Debbie downers as on this site. Jesus Christ. This is a great idea and way overdue. I
Hope they continue this all the way down to Washington square park and completely pedestrianize university as well. Heck. Pave Broadway over all the questions to Madison square park. Fuck cars. I could not be happier and cannot wait for this to come to fruition.

Btw. Life long east villager here so spare me your hipster from Ohio cries.

Sarah said...

Beacon, you need to cut back on whatever the Westchester equivalent of purple drank is before posting. "I hate TJ's, they're too pricey, I prefer a local store selling locally grown organic produce"? Sheesh.

Park stops at 14th anyway; I'm not sure losing the three blocks is that big a deal. But I'm also not at all sure *this* project needs to be top priority downtown. I don't look forward to the city getting hustled by their "partners," either.

Anonymous said...

They want to tear down the triangular green park median space in south east corner? .......... and replace with cement? ......... someone getting kick backs from cement and asphalt and paver industry? How about keep a good thing (trees and plants) good

Anonymous said...

True to the standards of unethical, sleazy mega-developers and billionaire globalists? This transformation of US Park, like Broadway, has a hidden agenda that is never mentioned. Full transparency isnt their forte'. All of this push to rid cities of cars, trucks and humans is the UN Sustainablie Cities Initiative. A former NYPD detective used to speak of her years at City College in the mid 1960s. One professor related to his class. how the long term 50 yr out plan for Manhattan by the Elite, was to make it into an exclusive gated community for the uber rich. Like a resort playground. At the time I was told this, Thompkins Square was occupied by homeless and the people, citizens still looked out for their neighbors, and Old NY still held sway in the city. I thought "it'll never be possible." A few decades of Fabian incrementalism later? Monaco in Manhattan is making steady progress. The released bioweapon COVID has tripled the rate of small business closures, and the one industry which never slowed down during the plannedemic were construction sites.
Now you know why all these restaurants are being sacrificed on the altar of progress.

JW said...

Not saying this isn’t right.. but some communities have voted again companies like Trader Joe’s / Whole Foods etc opening as they tend to send gentrification of those area into hyperspeed.