As 2015 comes to a close, the Village Alliance would like to update the community on the past year's efforts and accomplishments. Major highlights this year include implementation of pedestrian safety improvements to 8th Street as part of the Village Gateway vision, two public art installations at Ruth Wittenberg Triangle, the preservation of Jim Power's mosaic poles for installation at Astor Place and the launch of the Village Access loyalty card that provides incentives for neighbors and investment in our small businesses.
As always, the Village Alliance would like to thank our property owners, businesses and residents for your continued support. Take a moment to read about our work as we endeavor to improve the quality of life in Greenwich Village.
THE VILLAGE GATEWAY
We had a successful year implementing 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. Due to our advocacy efforts, the City implemented safer pedestrian crossings along 8th Street and developed strategies to increase bicycle use of the corridor. This summer we were able to place 25 new landscaped planters in the district gateway, greening the neighborhood and creating a "human-scale" environment for our main commercial thoroughfare. The final component of the project will take place this upcoming spring: the expansion of Ruth Wittenberg Triangle will make the dangerous Sixth Avenue crossing safer and extend seating opportunities for pedestrians.
Cracked and crumbling bluestone pavers on Sixth Avenue continue to be a concern for property owners and local residents. In 2015 we were successful in developing a master plan approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to allow property owners to replace the hazardous bluestone with tinted concrete, a much more durable and appropriate material for commercial corridors with high pedestrian volumes and heavy delivery needs. The plan will allow owners to receive approval at the LPC staff level rather than a prolonged full Commission review. In order to incentivize property owners to make the change from bluestone to tinted concrete, the Village Alliance has developed a grant program that will reimburse 25% of the construction costs to replace the bluestone.
In 2015 the Village Alliance continued to work with city, state and federal elected officials to petition the MTA to renovate the West 4th Street Subway Station. The MTA committed to additional improvements in their new five-year capital plan, and began work this fall improving station entrance floors and tiling. Some of the included improvements, such as replacing and waterproofing sidewalk ventilation units, will prevent further erosion underground. Larger station improvements requiring the shutdown of train lines, however, are not currently in the capital plan.
It has been a busy year for beautification initiatives with seasonal landscaping of 48 hanging flower baskets and now 30 street and sidewalk planters. In our most thorough effort to date, 40 tree pits along Sixth Avenue were enlarged and mulched to both improve the health of the trees and the look of the corridor, while providing more permeable area to capture rain water. 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.
The Village Alliance also purchased 20 new trash receptacles throughout the district, replacing ones in service since we began cleaning the sidewalks in the early 1990s. Older top-loading trash cans, which are difficult for our sanitation workers to empty, have been replaced with much easier to access side-loading cans.
Finally, we implemented our first ever public art program, with two projects this year at Ruth Wittenberg Triangle. The first installation, In Flux, by emerging NYC artist John Shriner, brought six organic sculptural "paintings" to the Village for two months this spring. The second piece, Everything, by Swedish artist Hanna Liden, featured the quintessential New York City bagel as a visual treat for passersby. We will continue to present art throughout the district as opportunities arise.John Shriner's 'In Flux' captures the attention of visitors
ASTOR PLACE DEVELOPMENT
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, Jim Power's mosaic lamp poles, have been salvaged and will return to be part of the new Astor Place. The Village Alliance convened a group that included NYCDOT, the mosaic artist Jim Power; neighborhood activists, and WXY Studio to research and propose how the poles might be reintroduced to the new streetscape. We received Public Design Commission approval this summer to reinstall seven poles in an east/west axis along 8th Street/Astor Place, and expect to see them return once refurbished later in 2016.
The reconstruction of Astor Place and Cooper Square is well underway after a prolonged delay of several months due to extensive discussions between the City and MTA involving construction plans atop the Astor Place subway station. Construction began again in October and we expect the plazas to be substantially complete by late summer 2016. In anticipation of reopening the plazas, we are working with CityActivators and local arts partners to produce a grand opening festival with stage performances, art and open houses at local institutions to capture the spirit of community that will surround NYC's newest civic space.
MARKETING & EVENTS
Village Access Card
2015 saw the introduction of our neighborhood loyalty card program offering deals and incentives at dozens of local businesses not available anywhere else. Launched in June, we distributed 2,500 Village Access Cards to local residents and employees and look forward to expanding the program in the new year.
Self-Guided Walking Tours
Building on our popular summer Saturday guided tours, we wanted to offer a way for visitors to explore the neighborhood in other days and seasons as well. To do so, we created a web-based, mobile-friendly app for use on any phone that promotes 25 cur ated tours, from art, architecture and literature to food and pop culture. The tours are also intended to draw additional. visitors to the neighborhood who will also patronize our local merchants.
13th Annual Taste of the Village
On September 10th, the Village Alliance produced the 13th 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 who will be producing the event in future years, together we raised $30,000 for park maintenance services.
Events & Festivals
Coinciding with the summer solstice, the Village Alliance once again lined 8th Street with free activities, moveable seating, games, a kids area and musical performances all day for two Saturdays in June at the third annual Positively 8th Street Festival. The Village Alliance also produced the second Crazy 8 Cartoon Festival on October 17th, a one day, signature comic-and-cartoon-art-themed event held inside business venues along West 8th Street. 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. Finally, we partnered with the Greenwich Village Society of Historic Preservation and the Neighborhood Preservation Center to offer Building History Detectives, an educational evening workshop aimed at giving attendees the tools necessary to learn more about our built environment.
We look forward to working with all of you in the coming year on behalf of the Village Alliance board and staff, I wish you a happy and prosperous 2016!