A new vision for Union Square is taking shape and gaining traction for a plan that would build on the success of the 14th Street busway and expel cars to create 33% more public space.
The Union Square Partnership says it wants the city to expand the park to the west with a pedestrian plaza, exiling cars from southbound side of Union Square East making the traffic island to the southeast essentially part of the park and creating a new masterplan for Union Square that will fit with modern needs.
“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. “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.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio, in response Streetsblog editor Gersh Kuntzman, said on Tuesday that while he was not aware of the proposal’s details, his administration had set a precedent in 2020 to prove that transformations that closed roadways for public space were a successful strategy.
“Well, I’m definitely interested. I have not seen the plan. I look forward to seeing it,” de Blasio said We had an extraordinary experience in 2020, despite the pain, despite the challenges, we moved to the Open Streets model. We found it to be very successful, obviously, particularly in combination with the Open Restaurants. We’re now looking at that model on a broader level, for sure. So, I want to see this plan and I’m happy they’ve put it forward.”
But while de Blasio had not been made briefed on the proposal as of Tuesday, Councilwoman Carlina Rivera had, saying that the proposal would have benefits for mass transit users, neighborhood residents and the business community.
“As we’ve seen from the success of the 14th Street Busway, prioritizing streetscape and open space for pedestrians, cyclists, and public transportation, can have a unique and positive effect for nearby businesses, residents, and our City as a whole,” Rivera said. “The Union Square Partnership Vision Plan demonstrates the next step that we can take in collaboration with the community to promote a connected and accessible Union Square Park and District of the future.”
Read the full report on the Union Square-14th Street District Vision Plan here.