Union Square is not just a popular destination for tourists, it’s also home to theater enthusiasts, a vibrant restaurant scene and a booming real estate market.
“It’s truly a 24/7 residential and commercial district,” said Jennifer Falk, executive director of Union Square Partnership, a non-profit community organization. “Many people live and work in the district, then also spend their leisure time here.”
With the Union Square Park subway stations the fourth-busiest in the city on weekdays and second-busiest on weekends, according to the MTA, the area businesses are constantly bustling.
“Being a restaurant in Union Square means that you serve both residents who treat us like their downstairs kitchen and one-time visitors who want a taste of New York,” said Sam Lipp, 35.
Lipp is the managing partner at Danny Meyer’s first restaurant, Union Square Cafe, which was at 16th Street and Broadway for five years before it closed to relocate to 19th and Park this fall.
Residents can easily walk to Chelsea or the East Village for trendy dining, but they can also stay close to home at popular restaurants like ABC Kitchen at 35 E. 18th St., Tocqueville at 1 E. 15th St., or Friend of a Farmer at 77 Irving Place.
“What makes Union Square so unique, but also so special, is that four different neighborhoods — Gramercy, Flatiron, Greenwich Village and the East Village — all converge upon the area,” explained Kelly Waters, 37, a real estate sales broker with Compass who specializes in the area.
Due to its access to the park and several train and bus lines, the competition for real estate in the area is fierce, she said.
According to the listings site StreetEasy, the median sales price in Union Square was $1,250,000 in 2015, compared to $990,000 in Manhattan as a whole.
The median rent in the area last year was $3,993, compared to $3,200 in the entire borough, the site found.
Housing ranges from luxury condos like at 37 E. 12th St. and 15 Union Square W., where prices go as high as $20 million, and rental buildings like 145 and 85 Fourth Ave., where one-bedrooms rent for around $4,800 a month. At the 27-story One Union Square South, one-bedrooms rent for $5,630 a month.
For those on a tighter budget, there are walkups, like the four-story 861 Broadway, where a three-bedroom rented for $6,600 in June, according to StreetEasy.
Union Square Park offers numerous perks, such as outdoor fitness classes, lunchtime jazz concerts and movie nights in the summer.
The park’s Greenmarket, which opened in 1967, features around 140 vendors from farms around the Northeast, along with composting and other recycling services.
Bill Carter, a 54-year-old personal trainer and chef, heads to the market several times a week to buy huckleberries from Berried Treasures and meat from Violet Hill Farms.
“It was so much smaller in the ’80s,” Carter, who now resides in Astoria, said of the Greenmarket.
“I shopped here when it was still ‘Needle Park,’ when no one wanted to linger,” he added, referring to a nickname given to city parks that were known for drug use and crime. “Now, people stay to chat all day!”
The performing arts is also vibrant in the neighborhood at theaters like Vineyard Theatre on 15th and Irving Place and the Daryl Roth Theatre on 15th and Union Square East. Street performances are also held regularly at the south end of Union Square Park.
“I saw John Slattery there and had a spazzed-out ‘Mad Men’ moment,” two-year resident and artist Jessica Redmond, 25, said. “Also, I get out of the 6 train downtown subway at the park, and the stairs lead right up to an area where there are often performers … You never quite know what will be at the top of the stairs that day.”
The Union Square area runs from 12th Street in the south to 18th Street in the north, Fifth Avenue in the west to Irving Place and Fourth Avenue in the east.