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Julie Stein, new Union Square BID director, plans to expand pedestrian space, ‘extend park’s benefits’ into n’hood

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | The Union Square Partnership business improvement district — which covers the Union Square-14th Street neighborhood — has announced that Julie Stein is its new executive director.

Stein will start the job July 17, overseeing the nonprofit organization’s work “to enhance quality of life and create a cleaner, safer and more enjoyable environment for Union Square residents, businesses and visitors, while prioritizing the district’s future growth through strategic planning, fundraising and advocacy programs.”

She succeeds Jennifer Falk, the Partnership’s former longtime executive director, who stepped down eight months ago.

One of Stein’s top priorities as E.D. will be to start implementing the USQNext Vision Plan to dramatically increase space for pedestrians and cyclists around Union Square and along 14th Street.

Union Square West in a recent photo. (USP)
Union Square West reenvisioned under the USQNext Vision Plan, showing the removal of car traffic along most of the stretch.
An aerial view of how 14th Street and Union Square might look under the USQNext Vision Plan. (Marvel)
A rendering of what 14th Street between Broadway and Union Square West/University Place could look like under the vision plan. (Marvel)

Stein most recently was executive director of the “New” New York Panel, following a career with the New York City Economic Development Corporation. In May 2022, Governor Hochul and Mayor Adams formed the 59-member panel of civic leaders and industry experts tasked to develop a road map for New York’s equitable recovery, reimagining New York City’s business districts and enhancing the region’s economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Stein led the panel, which produced the Making New York Work for Everyone action plan, announced last December, which includes 40 initiatives to reimagine how and where people work across the city, effecting changes from public space and transportation to housing and childcare.

“On behalf of our entire board of directors and staff, we are excited and proud to share the news of Julie Stein’s appointment as executive director of Union Square Partnership,” said Lynne P. Brown and William Abramson, co-chairpersons of the BID’s board of directors. “As the very first BID incorporated in New York City, Union Square Partnership has always led the way. Today, building on decades of success, we look toward a bright future under Julie’s leadership. Her experience leading complex initiatives at the city and state level, working with a wide array of stakeholders and partners, and delivering results make her the perfect choice for the Partnership as it charts a bold, new vision for Union Square going forward.”

“Union Square represents the heartbeat of our city — where New Yorkers come together to live, work, shop, learn and play,” Stein said. “I am excited to work with the entire USP team to deliver the core services that the neighborhood relies on every day. I look forward to collaborating with local stakeholders, businesses and residents to build on the solid fundamentals that make Union Square a vibrant mixed-use district and an enduring symbol of innovation. Together, we will implement the USQNext Vision Plan, leveraging the core strengths of this remarkable area and further supporting the neighborhood’s interconnected ecosystem of dynamic public realm and streetscape, transportation accessibility, retail and dining and community inclusion.”

14th Street east of Union Square Park in a recent photo. (USP)
The same stretch of E. 14th Street — with less foliage but more asphalt paving — as conceived under the USQNext Vision Plan. (Marvel)

The USQNext Vision Plan, unveiled in 2021, aims to vastly increase pedestrian space around the square and along 14th Street. The Partnership hails the long-term scheme — which could take 10 to 20 years to fully implement — as “a bold new vision” for the community, with the goal of transforming Union Square into the city’s “most accessible space.”

In a wide-ranging interview some months before her resignation, Falk, the Partnership’s then-director, assured The Village Sun that the Vision Plan — which first emerged in an earlier form in 2018 — had not faded away and would be back in the news soon enough. The Vision Plan would follow hot on the heels of a recent major change affecting 14th Street — namely, the 14th Street busway, which was implemented under former Mayor de Blasio. Greenwich Village and Chelsea residents sued to stop the busway scheme, arguing it would flood neighboring side streets with cars banned from the major crosstown artery and that 14th Street residents would lose their curbside access.

Per the Partnership’s Web site, “The Union Square-14th Street District Vision Plan aims to foster a transit-rich, dynamic and inclusive urban space that encourages walking and gathering; to celebrate the diverse communities of New Yorkers and visitors, and to make Union Square the most welcoming and accessible place in New York.”

The Vision Plan goals include:

  • Increase overall pedestrian space throughout the district
  • Improve access and connectivity across the greater Union Square area
  • Increase open space and extend the benefits of the park out to the neighborhood
  • Sustain the variety of organic activities that make this New York’s town square
  • Promote free expression and the interweaving of diverse populations as a hallmark
  • Preserve and enhance the neighborhood historic elements
  • Enliven ground-floor retail and promote restaurant growth
  • Support environmental and public health in and around Union Square

According to a Partnership press release on the new executive director, “Stein’s skilled organizational leadership, paired with deep expertise in economic development, urban planning and asset management, positions her as the ideal leader for Union Square Partnership as the organization builds support for the implementation of the USQNext Vision Plan.

“Following a period of robust community engagement and district improvement work by USP, the organization will work with civic leaders and constituents to build the necessary support and funding to bring multi-modal accessibility, increased district greening and substantially expanded public open space to the neighborhood,” the press release notes.

Broadway north of Union Square in a current photo. (USP)
A rendering of how Broadway north of the park would look under the USQNext Vision Plan. (Marvel)

Prior to Stein’s appointment with the “New” New York Panel, she was senior vice president for E.D.C.’s Asset Management Division and co-head of its Portfolio Management Department. Before that, Stein was E.D.C.’s executive director for the Sunset Park neighborhood, where she oversaw leasing, campus planning and placemaking for E.D.C.’s industrial areas in Sunset Park, including the Brooklyn Army Terminal and the Made in New York Campus at Bush Terminal. Stein also previously worked with the city’s public wholesale and retail food markets, leading E.D.C.’s strategic planning on industry growth opportunities, facility modernization, infrastructure investment and resiliency.

“Julie’s exceptional leadership skills and deep experience helping to build the economic vitality of New York City will be enormous assets for USP as it builds upon its commitment to create an open, accessible and welcoming space for all residents and visitors,” said Tokumbo Shobowale, executive vice president for business and operations at The New School and a Union Square Partnership board member.

“Julie Stein is an exceptional leader who brings a wealth of experience building consensus around bold ideas and an execution plan to get there — which is exactly what we need to lead one of the city’s most important commercial districts,” said Ya-Ting Liu, chief public realm officer for the Mayor’s Office.

“I had the opportunity to work hand in hand with Julie developing the ‘New’ New York Panel action plan for the recovery of New York City’s business districts,” said Dan Doctoroff, the founder of Sidewalk Labs and a former deputy mayor under Mayor Bloomberg. “It was thanks to her remarkable work engaging top-tier decision makers, leading an interdisciplinary team and executing on an ambitious project plan that we achieved success.”

“At this moment in history, as our city and the world changes, Union Square remains one of our city’s most important and influential neighborhoods,” said Andrew Rasiej, co-founder and president of Civic Hall @ Union Square. “We are fortunate to have a dynamic and visionary leader in Julie Stein to lead Union Square and the city into the future.”

Civic Hall @ Union Square is housed in the new “Tech Hub” building, at Zero Irving Place, on E. 14th Street, and includes the Digital Learning Center, designed to train people for tech jobs.

Fred Cerullo, president and C.E.O. of the Grand Central Partnership BID, said of Stein, “Her personal style — which always leads to consensus-built results — is a great compliment to her well-established skills, and will serve as a great foundation for her leadership of Union Square Partnership.”

More than 250 candidates were considered for the Partnership’s top post.

Julie Stein began her career at City Hall, working for Linda Gibbs, the deputy mayor for health and human services. She holds a master’s degree in city planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree in public policy from Brown University. She is a graduate of the Coro Leadership New York program.

After managing USP through the eight-month transition period as acting executive director, Ed Janoff will remain on as the BID’s deputy director and chief strategy officer.


  1. evi evi July 12, 2023

    1. Not understanding how a BID gets to determine plan for land-use, streets, neighborhood?

    2. There is not a need for more restaurants.
    There are already plenty of restaurants – which cannibalize each other.
    Nor should everything be a restaurant.
    Plus giving benefit to restaurants on Union Square gives unfair advantage to those fortunate to be situated there.

    3. In the meantime, the City has done zero to help small shops and businesses which are closing due to high rent, shoplifting and ecommerce.
    Ink and Tamam are 2 recent examples.

  2. lynn pacifico lynn pacifico July 12, 2023

    More grass/lawn and trees please.

  3. Robert Lederman Robert Lederman July 12, 2023

    The Union Sq Partnership BID has been at the forefront of suppressing artists’ freedom of expression so as to benefit the corporate privatization of public space. In 2010 they lobbied the Parks Department to create new highly restrictive rules for street artists that resulted in hundreds of artists losing their livelihoods. The Partnership replaced those independent artists with a corporate-run “Holiday Market” and other corporate promotions that funnel millions of dollars to the BID. They falsely testified in court that artists were congesting the park, damaging aesthetics and creating safety issues. The artists were replaced with BID-approved promotions and events that congested the park, damaged aesthetics and created genuine public safety hazards hundreds of times more than what artists did. They would like the public to believe that they “promote free expression,” when they are in fact enemies of it. What they aggressively promote is privatization on behalf of corporations and BIDs. NYC parks are public property, not the private plaything of corporations, BIDs and park conservancies.

    • Marilyn Stevenson Marilyn Stevenson July 12, 2023

      Robert, you are 100% correct. BIDs are fascist corporate control all over the city. I’m surprised your comment wasn’t censored?

  4. sam sam July 12, 2023

    Actually with all that added space, the City could easily situate a rest area for food delivery workers.
    NYU students, young area residents are big users of food delivery.

  5. AJA AJA July 12, 2023

    So what happens to people who need taxis or vehicles to transit to/from medical appointments?
    Or are we just assuming demographic cleansing of the area so that won’t matter?

    BTW more bicyclists means more danger for pedestrians

  6. Carol Yost Carol Yost July 12, 2023

    I would like more greenery. One of the photos shows a lovely amount of greenery on the east side of the park, and it’s accompanied by a virtual rendering of the plan for that area—much less attractive, much more asphalt.

  7. Jean Ryan Jean Ryan July 11, 2023

    I’d like to see safer and easier access for wheelchair users. The curb ramps on 17th on the north side of Broadway are messed up. The ramp on the northwest side of the park going north is not intuitive and is hard to find in a crowd with no contrast. It would be lovely to have no curb at all.

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