By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The Union Square Partnership launched an initiative at the end of last year to solicit ideas from area residents and business owners about how to improve the neighborhood.
The Partnership announced the new project earlier last year and held “pop-up listening sessions” for two months in the district during the fall but began the community planning process with a forum at the end of November at the 14th Street Y, inviting neighbors to get involved in discussions with representatives from Marvel Architects, the firm that will be designing the final plans.
Although the neighborhood specifically around 14th Street might not be experiencing as much change as originally anticipated with the supposed cancellation of the L train shutdown, this project from the Partnership was intended to look beyond the next few years and focus on long-term goals beyond whatever changes the neighborhood will face during the construction on the L train.
“We have money to spend on the community so what we want to know is what types of investments we can make to make the neighborhood better in terms of sustainability,” said Jennifer Falk, executive director of the Partnership.
The listening sessions allowed the firm to collect general information about suggestions for the community and how to make the neighborhood better, regarding the streetscape as well as the park, and came up with discussion points to focus the conversations.
The groups at the most recent forum discussed ideas for new projects and programs in Union Square Park such as security bollards to improve pedestrian safety, create more programming for teens, consider ideas for new amenities at Triangle Park at Union Square and East 14th Street and incorporate paved plazas. Community members also had suggestions for improving existing areas of the park, such as expanding seating, improving the dog run, adding composting and improving trash storage.
Participants also outlined ideas for new projects along 14th Street from First to Sixth Avenues, including additional seating along the eastern and western stretches of the street and planting additional street trees to provide shade. Suggestions to improve existing components already on 14th Street includes considering different spaces for vendors and food carts to reduce congestion and exploring how to maintain diverse retail that offers affordable services for residents and employees in the area.
The next forum planned for January 28 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the Xavier High School Keenan Commons at 31 West 15th Street will allow community members to narrow the focus areas and identify potential projects for the district.