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PR- 284-04
October 25, 2004


Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg was joined today by Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe, Council Member Margarita Lopez, Union Square Partnership Chairman Eugene R. McGrath and Executive Director Karen H. Shaw to announce the $14 million capital campaign for the completion of Union Square Park. The funding for this project consists of $8 million in City funds, and an additional $6 million in private funds, including a $5 million donation from a private citizen. The campaign will complete the reconstruction of historic Union Square Park, and includes the unification and expansion of two existing playgrounds, a year-round restaurant and a decoratively paved plaza for the Greenmarket farmer’s market and public events. Community Board 5 approved the initial design plans for the project on October 14, and renovation of the playground and Pavilion is expected to begin next fall.

“The revitalization of Union Square Park and the entire Union Square area has been accomplished through a model public/private partnership between the City and the Union Square community,” said Mayor Bloomberg.  “With the help of the Union Square Partnership over the last 20 years, the park and neighborhood have been transformed from an area once synonymous with blight and inaccessibility to a hub of restaurants, commercial, academic and residential life. This project will complete the restoration of one of the City’s most important and historic public spaces.”

“The plan for the renovation, beautification and improvement of Union Square Park’s north end is the culmination of the City’s two-decade effort to revive this 165-year-old park,” said Commissioner Benepe.  “Union Square Park’s improved amenities will now reflect its standing as a city commons, where parents bring their children to play and their dogs to walk, where New Yorkers congregate from across the City to buy fresh produce, grab a bite to eat, gather to express opinions, and meet friends.”

The “Northern Gateway” of the park will preserve and improve the existing space for the popular Greenmarket, special events while minimizing the impact on farmers and neighbors during construction.  The plan also incorporates community concerns regarding improved paving, insulation of the north end from traffic and the creation of a visual corridor from Broadway. The renovation project includes the unification and expansion of two existing playgrounds, the restoration of the historic Pavilion building to accommodate a year-round restaurant, the construction of two new structures to include public restrooms, expanded and improved maintenance and storage facilities for Parks & Recreation, and a decoratively paved public plaza which will enhance the Greenmarket and add plantings to better define the park’s perimeter.

Total City funding for this project will be $8 million, which includes $1.9 million from Council Member Margarita Lopez. The Union Square Partnership has already raised $5 million in private funds and expects to raise the remaining $1 million needed to ensure completion of the project.

“We are off and running,” said Karen H. Shaw, Executive Director of the Union Square Partnership.  “This is a very significant project not only for the community, but the City, as a whole.  The Partnership is delighted to have played a lead role in spearheading this important public/private partnership that will substantially improve our neighborhood’s crown jewel.  With the help of the entire community, the Union Square Partnership is committed to ensuring the successful completion of our historic park and create a beautiful and useful public space.”

The planning and design process involved Parks & Recreation and the community and was spearheaded and funded by the Union Square Partnership. The conceptual plan was designed by an award-winning landscape architect team Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc. The team, lead by the planning firm Hamilton, Rabinovitz & Alschuler, Inc with significant input and guidance from Parks & Recreation, consulted with numerous community leaders and neighborhood stakeholders, including Community Board 5, the Greenmarket and playground users, to define the needs and requirements of the northern end of the park.

The Union Square Partnership serves as a catalyst for the economic revitalization of the 14th Street-Union Square community. The Partnership is made up of two entities, the Business Improvement District and the Local Development Corporation, working in tandem to improve and maintain the quality of life for the 14th Street - Union Square neighborhood. The Partnership is made up of local business leaders, residents, not-for-profit groups, universities, hospitals and businesspeople seeking to improve the neighborhood.

The 3.6-acre Union Square Park opened to the public in 1839. The park is a gathering place for New Yorkers from all walks of life, and a center for commerce, political events, and recreation. In 1871 M.A. Kellogg and Gardener E.A. Pollard collaborated on a new plan for Union Square, and a year later it was redesigned by landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. Since 1976 the Union Square Greenmarket has served as a local landmark, offering fresh food and plants on the north side of the park, where a flower market flourished over a century ago.

This project will be the third and final phase of the reconstruction/completion of Union Square Park. The southern portion of the park was reconstructed in two stages. In 1986, a City project rebuilt the entire area south of the pavilion with a large stepped plaza. The park’s southeastern triangle and southwest border were reconstructed and expanded in 2002. In 1997, the United States Department of the Interior designated Union Square Park a National Historic Landmark.


Edward Skyler / Robert Lawson   (212) 788-2958

Warner Johnston   (Parks)
(212) 360-1311

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