Currently viewing the tag: "Union Square"

I spent the better part of this long weekend wandering through the many parks of New York City.  The weekend weather was absolutely perfect to spend the whole day in a park and as you’ll see from the pictures below - I wasn’t the only one who thought so.  Now, I know I’ve said this before but, Miami could learn a lot from these cities.  New York’s ever growing park infrastructure is absolutely amazing.  Over the weekend, I wandered through Central, Union Square, Washington Square, and most importantly: the new Hudson River Parkway and Hoboken’s Pier A Park.  NYC and Hoboken have rejuvenated their waterfront with quality design and infrastructure, enabling access to the vast open space along the shores.  There certainly is not a valid reason why our Waterfront parks and river greenway shouldn’t be able to emulate the success of these great public spaces.  A brief walk through of either of these two linear riverside parks will reveal why they too will become great public spaces - accessible green space, limited concrete, varied structured and unstructured activity spaces, and multimodal connectivity…

We began the day Saturday with an obligatory trip into Central Park.  This was the scene pretty much throughout the park.  The park offered us a great escape from the crowds we had just walked through in Midtown - it seemed like the other half of the city had flocked to Central Park.

This was the scene at Hoboken’s Pier A, just across the Hudson River from NYC’s Hudson River Parkway.

This whole park is built upon a pier and provides some great open space in which to enjoy the panoramic views of Manhattan.  It reminded a lot of Brooklyn Bridge Park on the opposite side of Manhattan…

Like the Hudson River Parkway, New Jersey is working to connect their entire waterfront park system with bicycle paths - creating safe, healthy, and clean ways for residents to access the waterfront, transit, and Business Districts.

Shade.  If there had’t been a nice cool breeze, I’m sure we would have seen more people enjoying this area.

Being the transit junkie that I am, I just had to go for a ride on the Hudson Bergen Light Rail.  These trains are fast, efficient, quiet, and a wonderful way to commute through Jersey.

Miami lacks a center.  We have no urban square in which to assemble, no central oasis within our concrete jungle.  Our coastal parks lack focus, continuity, or the social elements which make them function.  By looking into the success of Urban Squares across the country, we’ll gain a better understanding of the attributes which make these squares function as centers for civic pride.  The features which make these urban parks succeed is what we as a community pour into them.  By contrast, our closest example of an Urban Square, Bayfront Park, is a disjointed, uncohesive mess, littered with commercial enterprises.  As we’ve discussed before, our closest community assembly point may just be a parking lot…

As you glance through these select few parks, notice the emphasis on community events.  You will find successful squares exist centered among the crossroads of business, theater, retail, and artistic centers while serving as the focal points for our densest urban communities. Don’t neglect the transit infrastructure.

Without reiterating many of the points made by my colleagues, I’ll turn our attention to the most successful urban squares across the United States, addressing why they work.

Union Square (San Francisco)

The 2.6 acre Union Square is located in the heart of San Francisco’s shopping, entertainment, and theater district.  A plethora of boutiques, department stores (6 to be exact), hotels, and theaters surround the square, making it one of the largest tourist attractions and shopping districts in the Bay Area.  The square is serviced by 2 cable car lines (Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason), the F Market Heritage Streetcar line, Muni Metro, and BART Subway systems (3rd busiest station along the system.)  Click here to go on a 3D Tour of Union Square.

Madison Square (New York)

The 6.8 acre Madison Square Park first opened in 1847, almost immediately served as a catalyst for the surrounding area, attracting hotels and theaters to the district (yes, this is where Madison Square Garden gets its name from.)  The park experienced a renewal in 1870 which bought a new design and sculptures to the park, among other items.  In 1912, America’s first public Christmas tree was erected in the park.  Today, the park plays host to abundant community and civic events (like the meatscursion.)  A new park favorite, the Shake Shack, garners hundreds of hungry patrons daily with lines snaking throughout the park.  Six lines of the MTA Subway service the region.

Union Square (New York)

Speaking more from personal experience, New York’s Union Square is a hub for local activity surrounded by an abundant mix of retail, residences, and commercial property.  The square is surrounded and influenced by the surrounding flatiron, Chelsea, Greenwich, and NYU neighborhoods.  Originally founded in 1815 as a public commons, the square began to take its more modern shape later into the mid 1800′s.  One of the square’s most prominent local features, the GreenMarket, began in 1976, providing regional small family farmers with opportunities to sell their fruits, vegetables and other farm products in the city.  The Union Square Hub is serviced by eight MTA subway lines.

The Unions Square Pillow Fight 2008:

Copley Square (Boston)

Boston’s Copley Square was founded in 1858.  Up until the early 1900′s, the square served as a cultural and educational center for Boston, bordered by the original Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Public Library, and original MIT Campus.  In 1983 with the formation of the Copley Square Committee, the park was revitalized improving green space, water features, and sightlines.  The Square is serviced by the four routes of the Green Line Light Rail system.