Preservation and planting, playgrounds and pony rides


By Susan Kramer and Gail Fox

Union Square Community Coalition has tackled many issues this year and we plan to expand our role in the community in the coming year, in which we will celebrate our 25th anniversary.

U.S.C.C. arranged for the park’s summer playground associate, purchased mini-sized picnic tables for the playgrounds, supported the park’s summer part-time gardener and recruited volunteers and purchased shrubs, flowers, supplies and refreshments for planting days. We underwrote a day of dance and music at Summer in the Square. We continued efforts to landmark the Paterson Silks building — currently in a limbo of interrupted demolition — Baumann Brothers, Tammany Hall and Guardian Life Annex buildings.

The Coalition has also been privileged to represent area residents in the north end’s renovation and in doing so continue to work with Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, Councilmember Margarita Lopez, the Parks Department, Community Board 5, the Department of Transportation and the Union Square Partnership.

Anyone following the redesign of the north end has been aware of the conflict between those behind the plan and those against it. It now appears that the Parks Department has reconfigured the most recent plan to enlarge the playground into the entire space between the 16th St. traverse and the pavilion building. This should please those who felt that the original plan shortchanged the neighborhood children of play space. Many U.S.C.C. members still feel that there should not be a concession in the pavilion, but hopefully we can all come to a compromise where most of the needs of the community will be met. U.S.C.C. intends to find the common goals among us and promote them. Particularly important to us is insuring that Union Sq. will continue its historic role as a place for large public gatherings and that the new design of the north plaza will not interfere in that role. Union Sq. is a designated national historic landmark lest we forget. The Greenmarket space should also be uncompromised. We seek assurances from Parks that these goals will be met and that the process will be kept open. Another element of any new design must include improvements to pedestrian safety at crossings at 17th St. at Broadway and Park Ave. S. We would suggest serious consideration for a midblock crossing on 17th St. from Barnes & Noble into the north plaza for traffic calming. As the plan evolves we will continue to be involved.

One of our favorite events, U.S.C.C.’s free annual Children’s Carnival, was held last fall. This year’s Carnival will be on Sun., Sept. 18. We would love to have help setting up, taking down, running games or making cotton candy. If your company would like to help sponsor the event or can connect us to an organization that can, give us a buzz.

One of U.S.C.C.’s good deeds is helping to plant bulbs in the fall. They are now making an absolutely beautiful spring! We’ve never seen the park look so flowerful. Ann Mullen, head gardener, and Debby Hulse, assistant gardener, have done a magnificent job this year, with planting done by volunteers, many of whom we help recruit. We just sponsored another It’s My Park Day on May 14. Over 50 participants came out to help plant a new crop of annuals. Our next Plant the Park Day is Oct. 15. Kids and parents with green or any color thumbs are welcome.

Anyone enjoying Union Sq. Park in the past year should be thanking the Parks Department’s District Manager Christian Paro for a fabulous job. Paro is moving to another state for new pursuits. In his too-short tenure, we benefited from his quick responses to problems, attention to detail and courtesy in dealing with what must have been an overwhelming amount of requests.

If you’ve been wondering what we’re all about, here’s a sample agenda of a recent meeting:

• Vendors overtaking southwest plaza

• Street tree project

• Landmarks — preservation of Paterson Silks building and others

• Parks Department and Department of Transportation report on north end

• Establish ongoing sculpture installation

• Park cleanup day and plans for 2005 — plants and staffing

• Additional shade umbrellas for playground

• Recruit new members/volunteers

• Plan to purchase additional seating in the park — bistro tables and chairs

If our issues are your issues, please join our organization. Our e-mail address is unionsquarepark@yahoo.com. Snail mail is P.O. Box 71, Cooper Station, NY, NY 10276. Our Web link is www.preserve.org/uscc/

Kramer and Fox are co-chairpersons of the Union Square Community Coalition’s board of directors