Separating the Midtown office buildings from the quaint and seemingly quiet Village, this crossroads is somewhere in between in terms of character. Dominated by professionals, the real estate has been increasing exponentially in value in recent years. With the political activity of the park, coupled with the robust retail scenery and the myriad subways emptying their cars amidst it all, there is no shortage of variety here. Shopping options, a plethora of dining possibilities, and little new housing, this area is growing in its popularity to both residents and tourists.
For nearly 170 years, Union Square has been a gathering place?for commerce, for entertainment, for labor and political events, and for recreation. The park owes its name to its location at the intersection?or union?of two major roads in New York City: Bloomingdale Road (now Broadway) and Bowery Road (now Fourth Avenue). When the Commissioner's Plan--the famous gridiron of Manhattan streets and avenues--was projected in 1807, the former potter's field at this intersection was designated as Union Place. The site was authorized by the State Legislature as a public place in 1831 and acquired by the City of New York in 1833. On July 19, 1839 Union Square opened to the public. The grounds of Union Square have frequently served as a choice location for public meetings, including parades, labor protests, political rallies, and official celebrations, such as the Great Metropolitan Fair of the U.S. Sanitary Commission in 1864.
In 1928-29 Union Square was completely demolished to accommodate a new underground concourse for the subway. Threatened by general misuse, deterioration, and the presence of drug dealers in the 1970s, Union Square has recently undergone a dramatic transformation. In 1985 major renovations under the direction of Mayor Edward I. Koch included the creation of a new plaza at the south end of the park, relocating paths to make the park more accessible, planting a central lawn, and installing new lighting and two subway kiosks. In 1997 the United States Department of the Interior designated Union Square Park as a National Historic Landmark because of its significance in American labor history. Plans are underway to extend the park line south 14th Street and to incorporate in the park the traffic island on which the Gandhi statue now stands.
Union Square Buildings