Redesign of the northern end of Union Square Park
WHEREAS, New York City Parks and Recreation has proposed to redesign the northern end of Union Square Park; and
WHEREAS, Union Square Park and the north plaza of Union Square are highly valued public spaces that serve many constituencies, including local residents, businesses, park visitors, playground users, the Green Market and many others; and
WHEREAS, Funding has been provided from public and private sources, including the Union Square Partnership, Councilmember Margarita Lopez, the City of New York and private donations; and
WHEREAS, The Union Square Partnership and the Department of Parks and Recreation appeared before Community Board Five in February 2005; and
WHEREAS, Community Board Five passed a resolution in support of their original proposal which has since been modified; and
WHEREAS, Union Square has traditionally been a place for free speech and public assembly and is recognized in the State and National Registers of Historic Places because of this use; and
WHEREAS, Any proposal for the redesign of the park and plaza must balance the many uses of the park's constituents; and
WHEREAS, Consultation took place between the Union Square Partnership and New York City Parks and Recreation regarding a potential redesign of the north end of the park, including the playground areas, pavilion and the north plaza; and
WHEREAS, As a result of these consultations, the Union Square Partnership contracted Michael Van Valkenberg Landscape Architects to develop potential design concepts for the north end of the park and the plaza; and
WHEREAS, As part of the design process, Community Board Five, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation and the Union Square Partnership sponsored numerous meetings with local residents, businesses, park users and interested community organizations to solicit input into the design; and
WHEREAS, A final design was presented to Community Board Five at a public meeting on Monday, January 30, 2006; and
WHEREAS, Elements of the final design include the following:
Consolidate two existing play spaces into one continuous, enlarged playground (enlarged from 5,100 square feet to 14,687 square feet) with distinct age-specific play areas that encourage creativity through landforms, play equipment and open spaces with child sized hills, and a planted perimeter. Sand, water and plants will be incorporated into the playground.
The playground is designed to be accessible to wheelchairs as well as baby strollers.
A unisex bathroom with changing table, accessible only from the playground for use by children and their guardians, will be located on the east side of the pavilion.
Design was conceived with security and sight lines in mind. Parks security, Parks employees as well as a playground associate will be available as added security.
Northern Gateway Plaza
Addressing its history as an urban gathering space, the plaza will be repaved using materials able to withstand the greenmarket's requirements as it relates to truck usage as well as drainage. Asphalt blocks are proposed to create an integration of the plaza perimeter with the park as a continuation of the southwest corner renovation.
Along 17th street, 8 trees will be planted flush to the ground with improved drainage. Space between the trees will be a minimum of 20 feet.
A sidewalk will be built along 17th Street to provide protections for pedestrians by delineating park/sidewalk and the street.
Additional shaded public seating as well as trees will be placed along the north façade of the pavilion.
Construction will be phased (working with the Green Market) to minimize impact with operations.
Public bathrooms accessible from the north side will be built along the east side of the pavilion for use by all park patrons as well as the greenmarket.
Increased and historically sensitive lighting to be installed.
The design has been developed in consultation with the managers of the Green Market without objection.
Restoration of the pavilion with the main entrance on the north side. The concessionaire will be responsible for a full restoration of the pavilion.
The proposed seasonal café will occupy less area than what is occupied currently by the existing concession. Access to the pavilion will be available to the public when the concession is closed.
Additional public seating will be installed along the north side of the pavilion.
Internal exhaust will go through an existing chimney.
Waste bin storage has been positioned with little visual impact, minimal space requirements and in keeping with the park's aesthetics.
Parks and Recreation Office and Storage
A park maintenance yard will be added on to west of the new bathroom structure to increase storage for Parks Department staff.
A new basement of the building will be excavated of approximately 1,000 square feet to create locker rooms, showers, and increased office space; and
WHEREAS, Many in the community have expressed concern regarding a seasonal food concession with high prices and limited access; and
WHEREAS, The renovation of Union Square North and full restoration of the pavilion is not contingent on a concessionaire; and
WHEREAS, The proposal calls for the use of the Pavilion as a seasonal concession, and Community Board Five has been traditionally concerned with commercial concessions and their accompanying signage in public parks; and
WHEREAS, Any concession would go through an RFP review process and the Parks Department has assured the Board an opportunity to opine on the draft RFP prior to its release, as was done in that case of the Madison Square Park Food Kiosk; and
WHEREAS, Community Board Five recommends that the RFP should not be limited to restaurateurs, but should be open to other entities such as cultural and community groups; and
WHEREAS, The Parks Department has agreed to require any concessionaire to offer low cost items such as take-out food service in the case of a café; and
WHEREAS, Community Board Five strongly encourages the Parks Department to pursue funding from elected officials, the State and alternate sources in lieu of a seasonal café; and
WHEREAS, The Board is also concerned with the possible elimination of tables and chairs for public seating in the concession area; and
WHEREAS, The Parks Department has agreed to look closely at all prudent options for increasing public seating both portable and fixed, including opening up portions of the space south of Lincoln's statue to temporary tables and chairs; and
WHEREAS, If the RFP results in a seasonal café, the Parks Department has agreed to provide community, non-commercial programming and uses such as crafts area, theatre, etc, during the off season; and
WHEREAS, The Parks Department has agreed to evaluate all options in either fast tracking or phasing the playground construction in order to minimize closure time and possibly open alternative space in the park for supervised play in the interim; therefore be it
RESOLVED, Community Board Five supports the overall design of the north end of Union Square Park and the plaza as described above except for the bathroom structure, the design of which has not been presented; and be it further
RESOLVED, Community Board Five requests the Parks Department return to the Board with the specific design of the bathroom structure before the plan moves forward; and be it further
RESOLVED, Community Board Five requests that the Parks Department increase the handicap accessibility of the playground as well as adding additional playground elements that are handicap accessible; and be it further
RESOLVED, Community Board Five requests that the Parks Department include opportunities for other organizations, such as cultural institutions, community groups, etc. to submit proposals for the pavilion in addition to restaurateurs, and that the Board be given full opportunity to opine on the RFP prior to its release.The above resolution passed with a vote of 29 in favor, 1 opposed, 1 abstention, 1 present not entitled to vote.