Op-Ed | Hudson Square shows what NYC’s business districts could look like under Hochul and Adams’ public realm vision

Parklets 005519 (c) Ryan Muir
Photo courtesy of Hudson Square BID

Governor Hochul and Mayor Adams’ strong public realm vision is one step closer to reality with the shrewd appointment last week of the city’s first Chief Public Realm Officer, Ya-Ting Liu. If you want a preview of what New York City’s business districts could look like under this vision – take a walk in Hudson Square. 

Stroll down Hudson Street between West Houston and Canal Streets and you’ll notice it is quite different from other parts of Manhattan. The reimagined seven-block stretch—with lush plantings, trees, modern park-like spaces and benches, and wider sidewalks—was unveiled last summer by the Hudson Square Business Improvement District (BID), the New York City Economic Development Corporation, the New York City Department of Transportation and the New York City Parks Department.

The longstanding realities of our neighborhood required us to be ahead of the curve in coming up with innovative street-level improvements. When our BID was formed in 2009, Hudson Square was a gridlocked concrete jungle, known for car congestion heading into the Holland Tunnel. Much like the East Midtown business district highlighted in the governor and mayor’s December 2022 “Making New York Work for Everyone” action plan, Hudson Square wasn’t always safe, easy, or enjoyable for people to get around. Now, our scenic streetscapes and unexpected green spaces are flipping that script. 

Our $12 million renovation of Hudson Street was part of our ongoing transformation of Hudson Square into a people-focused neighborhood for all who work, visit, and live here.  This work has also included an extensive remodel of Spring Street Park and the creation of Freeman Plazas East and West, turning two formerly unused Port Authority spaces at the mouth of the Holland Tunnel into urban oases providing a respite from the bustle of traffic.  

The governor and mayor’s public plan shares the same values and ideals that have guided our work in Hudson Square, reimagining business districts to be more enticing to people in our “new world of choice” where companies and employees have the option of remote work. It affirms what business districts across the city have learned over the last three years: to bring people back, we must provide safe, welcoming, and enjoyable street-level experiences. 

In further alignment with the mayor and governor’s vision, we are now embarking on new public realm projects in Hudson Square—seamlessly connecting to surrounding neighborhoods and Hudson River Park, strengthening the river-to-river Houston Street corridor, adding to a network of public plazas spanning Manhattan, and creating more grand promenades along major thoroughfares.

Transformative private/public initiatives like these help New York City maintain its position as a global leader. The development of safe, clean, beautiful public spaces brings people to business districts and boosts local economies. We are eager to continue this impactful work and hope that it can serve as a model for what is possible in communities across this city and beyond.

Samara Karasyk is the CEO & president of the Hudson Square Business Improvement District (BID).