Union Square Not for Sale; Business vs. Community Improvement Districts; Gathering Thursday, June 5th 5 p.m.

Union Square Park Not for SaleWhy is a Business Improvement District (BID) in charge of a City Park anyway? At Union Square Park, the Union Square Partnership – the local BID – is in charge of basically everything that happens in that park.

There’s an ad in New York Press this week for “Summer In the Square” presented by Union Square Partnership with their big logo at the top: “Kids’ Programming, Yoga, Live Music and More! Union Square Park.”

At the bottom of the ad, it states: “EAT. SHOP. VISIT. UNION SQUARE.” The tying in of commerce with our parks and public spaces is representative of the Giuliani morphed into Bloomberg Era.

We counter this with the idea of the Community Improvement District. Now, it’s important to mention that if the Parks were properly funded by our City Council, conservancies and BID’s would not be able to exert the control over our public spaces that they’ve been handed over.

At Washington Square Park, the park has not been properly maintained, so the city swoops in with their big redesign plan, the community wants the park to be fixed but not made over, and next thing you know you have the Tisch Fountain aligned with the NYU Arch.

Remember when the Central Park Conservancy stopped a large anti-war protest from occurring at Central Park’s Great Lawn because it would hurt the grass? Despite allowing the Metropolitan Opera the same privilege? Of course, Mayor Bloomberg and NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe – no pillars of free speech – supported this. A judge last year ruled that they could not do this but the act had already occurred.

What is the Community Improvement District?

The needs of the people are our primary concern, distinguishing us from the better known and financed groups referred to as Business Improvement Districts (BIDS) whose sole interest is promoting better business and an environment conducive to shopping.

The BID in this area is known as the Union Square Partnership. They are responsible for the plan that is destroying the very heart of Union Square Park.

The Union Square Partnership, led by celebrity chef Danny Meyer, plans to turn the pavilion on the north side of this park into an upscale restaurant. They are pushing around the Greenmarket and the artist vendors, cutting down 80 year old trees, ending the day-care resources, driving out local residents and making it harder and harder for us to enjoy our own park.

This park is being privatized.

It is part of a city-wide pattern. The city underfunds the park, pushes aside public funds and then brings in a BID and a few millionaire friends posing as saviors.

We don’t need saving. We need transparency, a real democracy, and a public park.

  • We want to know who donated 7 million dollars to “buy” the pavilion and who will profit from the planned restaurant?
  • We want to know why 17th street needs to be four lanes instead of two, and why the Farmers Market, artist vendors and park lovers were sold out for a fancy Chardonnay restaurant?
  • Union Square is a national Free Speech landmark, the pavilion was built as a stage for public assembly and democratic gathering. This is where our American conscience erupted in the songs of Paul Robeson, the shouts of Emma Goldman and the prayers of Dorothy Day.
  • The 8-hour workday was born at Union Square and crowds surged before that reviewing stand in the tens of thousands.
  • The first Labor Day Parade took place here in 1882 and after 9/11 we gathered here instinctively just like George Washington and the Continental Army did in 1776.

Join us Thursday, June 5th 5 p.m. NorthWest Corner Union Square as we gather as the Union Square Partnership celebrates itself and all its success privatizing the Park, we will reclaim the space as public space.

Full details in previous post here.