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New plan to create more open space in Union Square

The Union Square Partnership has unveiled a new Vision Plan for the Union Square-14th Street District that will result in a 33 percent increase in public space.

“We are proud to unveil a Vision Plan that places the needs of the Union Square-14th Street community at the forefront by promoting openness, equity, safety, and accessibility. The ultimate goal here is for parkgoers to know they have arrived at a place that is special,” said Jennifer Falk, Executive Director of Union Square Partnership.

JENNIFER FALK

“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. 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.”

Designed in collaboration with Marvel, the Vision Plan is the culmination of a two-year-long process working with community members, local business leaders, urban designers, landscape architects, transportation experts and City and State agency partners.

It was the largest outreach effort in the Partnership’s 45-year history.
The plan proposes five key projects:

  1. Transform 14th Street into a world-class boulevard and transitway by building on the initial positive effects of the City’s busway program. This includes expanded pedestrian areas and designated bus boarding zones, as well as prioritizing access and connectivity to create an activated streetscape. New parklets, trees, planters, and other elements will enhance the walking experience. Sidewalks at Union Square will be doubled in width to alleviate congestion at transit entrances and allow for ground-floor retail activation.
  2. Convert Union Square West into a pedestrian plaza by extending the park all the way to the surrounding buildings. This will create a more unified “town square” feeling and help reduce pedestrian crowding. The plan proposes installing additional seating, encouraging active ground-floor uses, enlarging the subway entrance at 16th Street with an escalator and elevator, and building permanent flexible infrastructure for the Greenmarket.
  3. Create expansive new open space at the park’s southeast corner. Currently, Triangle Plaza at 4th Avenue is an underutilized public space within a large traffic island. The Plan proposes opening the southbound side of Union Square East to pedestrians to join the plaza to the park and create a large new open space for walking, gathering, and programming. A new pathway through the triangle will improve sight lines and pedestrian access.
  4. Build a Broadway Gateway at 17th Street as a permanent extension of the park. In 2011, NYC Department of Transportation (NYC DOT) implemented a temporary plaza at 17th Street and Broadway, where the roadway widens to meet Union Square Park. The vision for Broadway Gateway Plaza makes this plaza permanent, so that it becomes a welcoming “gateway” into the square with a unified paving scheme and park-like elements. This aligns with NYC DOT’s Broadway Visioning plan to complete a 2.5-mile pedestrian-friendly corridor stretching down from Columbus Circle.
  5. Develop a new Master Plan for Union Square Park. This multi-year undertaking will result in critical upgrades to the park’s infrastructure, including amenities such as bike parking, restrooms, utilities and landscape, including improved wheelchair access.
    You can see the plan at the Union Square Partnership’s dedicated webpage at unionsquarenyc.org/vision


    Urban Design Forum is also hosting an information event on Tuesday, January 26, 2021. Register at www.urbandesignforum.org
Renderings via Marvel
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