As 2014 comes to a close, the Village Alliance would like to take this time to reflect on the past years efforts and accomplishments. A major highlight this year was the opening of Ruth Wittenberg Triangle as a neighborhood plaza with chairs, tables and a new Village Information Cart. We are also pleased to report that NYCDOT and Community Board 2 recently approved plans to expand the plaza for more seating and change the intersection geometry to make crossings safer for pedestrians. Safer crossings are also planned for the entire 8th Street corridor in 2015.
We are in the second year of the Positively 8th Street campaign and can report some real success stories. Since beginning the branding and retail attraction efforts in 2012, vacancy rates are now lower along the corridor than they have been in over a decade. Pedestrian foot traffic has increased by 16% over the two year period as well. We couldnt be happier as locals begin to rediscover Greenwich Villages Main Street.
Work continued on the transformative Astor Place project as we reached the midway point of construction at years end. Meanwhile, Astor Place has become one of the NYC tech corridors hottest addresses as Facebook and IBM Watson opened major new corporate offices this year. And St. Johns Universitys School of Risk Management opened their doors this fall to welcome students to Astor Place.
As always, the Village Alliance would like to thank our property owners, businesses and neighbors for your continued support. Below are highlights of our major activities over the past year:
THE VILLAGE GATEWAY
We had a successful year kicking off the Village Gateway vision, a multi-faceted approach to activate, beautify, orient and inform both visitors and residents at one of the busiest entry points to Greenwich Village. Components include renovations to the West 4th Street subway station, enforcement of vending regulations, reconstruction of the Sixth Avenue sidewalk with more durable material and amenities, and the transformation of Ruth Wittenberg Triangle into an inviting urban space.
In 2014 the Village Alliance worked with city, state and federal elected officials to petition the MTA to renovate the West 4th Street Subway Station. The MTA made some improvements this past year that included ventilation work to the station and platform ceiling painting. We hope to see more extensive work funded at the station in the MTAs next five year capital plan.
Due to our advocacy in 2014, the City has agreed to expand Ruth Wittenberg Triangle and make crossings safer in the next year. This summer we were able to put out bistro tables and chairs, a new information cart as well as new landscaped planters on the plaza, much to the enjoyment of passersby. The effects are dramatic: the chairs were filled every nice weather day, and the cart educates more people about our Village businesses and historic sites now that it is available nine months of the year.
The crumbling bluestone on 6th Avenue continues to be a concern for the Village Alliance as well as for 6th Avenue property owners and local residents. We have a verified cost estimate for the project and will be meeting with elected officials to advocate for funding in FY 2016.
The reconstruction of Astor Place and Cooper Square is well underway, and the plazas are expected to be completed in the second half of 2015. We have been continuing to work on a community programming plan for our new spaces, engaging CityActivators to further develop program concepts and refine budgets. Outreach to neighborhood partners has also begun.
The Village Alliance wants Astor Place to be a thriving new focal point for our community, and we are happy to report that one of the most beloved components of the former streetscape, the mosaic lamp poles, have been salvaged. The Village Alliance convened a group that includes NYCDOT, the mosaic artist Jim Power; neighborhood activists, and WXY Studio to research and propose how the poles might be reintroduced to the new Astor Place streetscape, whether near their original location or in a new configuration. The project is expected to go through City review for approval in the first half of 2015.
MARKETING & EVENTS
2nd Annual Positively 8th Street Festival
Coinciding with the summer solstice, the Village Alliance once again lined 8th Street with free activities, moveable seating, games, a Beatnik Picnic on fresh grass turf laid in the street, a kids area and musical performances all day for two Saturdays in June. Restaurants and shops were encouraged to set up outside their storefronts and offer activities to reach new audiences. A series of event marketing, print and digital collateral also conveyed the branding message to the public to encourage locals to come out on the road and get to know the new 8th Street.
12th Annual Taste of the Village
On September 10th, the Village Alliance produced the 12th Annual Taste of the Village benefit for Washington Square Park, offering an opportunity for local restaurants to provide samples to nearly 500 guests, our highest attended event to date. Partnering with the newly formed Washington Square Park Conservancy, together we raised $35,000 for park maintenance services.
Inaugural Crazy 8 Cartoon Festival
The Village Alliance produced the inaugural Crazy 8 Cartoon Festival on October 18th, a one day, signature comic-and-cartoon-art-themed event held inside business venues along West 8thStreet. The event featured art and animation from some of the most renowned schools and societies in the world, cartoon-themed promotions, activities for kids of all ages and even a parade. The goal was to showcase 8th Street businesses to new audiences. This was accomplished by turning shops and restaurants into workshops, galleries and screening rooms for the day.
Fall Networking Event: Nightseeing
Creative lighting design energizes public spaces around the world, connecting people to one another and their surroundings. On October 23rd, artist and lighting designer Leni Schwendinger presented NightSeeing, Navigate Your Luminous City' to the Village community, a talk followed by an hour-long guided walk through Astor Place explored light's role in the urban night.
Our neighborhood social media channels continue to grow at a healthy pace, with a combined reach of over 10,000 followers. The major shift in focus this year involved rebranding the channels from Village Alliance to Greenwich Village NYC, reflecting our intent to provide content that appeals to the broader neighborhood as well as to those interested in learning about and/or visiting Greenwich Village. While we have maintained a Village Alliance Facebook page for our organization, we created new accounts on Facebook (Greenwich Village NYC), Twitter (@GrnVillageNYC) and Instagram (#GreenwichVillageNYC) to reach a broader audience. Our blog and e-newsletter, The Village Beat, continues to reach approximately 4,000 subscribers monthly.
STREETSCAPE & SAFETY
It has been a busy year for our district trees and planters. Many of them received the TLC that they so desperately needed. Tree pits along St. Marks Place were enlarged and mulched to both improve the health of the trees and the look of the block, while also controlling for rodents. Most of the pits had never seen any treatment since their installation decades ago. The results were dramatic in creating a much cleaner streetscape that is easier to navigate. Additionally the trees along 8th Street from 6th Ave to University were pruned in December with tree pit repairs on 6th Avenue to come in January 2015.
Be on the lookout for new Village trash receptacles, which will replace ones we have been using since we began cleaning the sidewalks in the early 1990s. Our streets will receive 20 new receptacles in early January 2015. Old top-loading trash cans, which are difficult for our sanitation workers to empty, will be replaced with much easier to access side-loading cans.
Public Safety Program
We are pleased to report that our patrol officers with Archangel Security International have been a valued and dedicated extension of our own staff over the past year, increasing their role in May to seven evening shifts per week. As ambassadors to the district, patrol officers regularly check in with merchants to assess safety concerns, interact with residents and visitors, answer questions and requests for directions; and provide constructive feedback in daily reports to inform meetings with police and property managers.
On behalf of the staff of the entire Village Alliance board and staff, we wish you a happy and prosperous 2015!