Sunday, October 21, 2007

Union Square is the place to be

When I first took my current job, we were located on the Northeast corner of Union Square. We were right across the street from the W hotel. God how I miss that location. It's the epitome of the city -- always buzzing, a glorious cacophony of skateboarders, libertarians, students and professionals all milling around for purposes of seeing or being seen. You have Whole Foods, DSW, American Eagle, Puma, 2 Starbucks, 7 eateries and Barnes & Noble all living around the park. Only in New York, baby.

Union Square in the 1860s...

You get the NYC-style brushes with fame. In my first month of work, I managed to twice accidentally walk through a shot of Anthony Bourdain's crew filming for No Reservations, not to be confused with the movie from last summer. It wasn't intentional, I'm just in my own head when I walk and it was just Bourdain, one camera and one assistant. Oops. The first time his crew were bastards, yelling at me. The second time we all just kind of laughed. Another time we heard a woman screaming bloody murder, so we opened our office windows in preparation to help. Turns out they were just filming some MTV promo down in the park. My co-worker and I got to cheer on Jack Black while he filmed something, and our office manager tried to keep the office dog from biting Jimmy Fallon (among others). At my old job, the closest I ever came to a brush was when 5th Ave was closed from 30th down to Madison Square Park while they filmed I Am Legend, which stars Will Smith and I believe opens next summer.

You get the outdoor markets. Without a doubt my favorite part of Union Square is the Green Market. Farmers, florists, artists and purveyors of goods from around the Northeast gather under linen tents to peddle their wares. It's a great place to unwind during lunch. My favorite tent is Vera's, where I buy potted herbs. The vendors are tough cookies and will stick it out even during all but the coldest days of the winter. The prices are not too bad and I've gotten delicious produce and bread from there.

...and Union Square today.
That's the George Washington statue
in the middle.

You get the cool events. Last winter they set up a halfpipe on our end of the square and had star X-Gamers doing tricks and stunts at night. It was pretty damn sweet, although the part that sticks out the most to me was that they had to truck in snow in February because last season was incredibly warm. This past fall there was a huge welcome festival and concert for NYU students that I of course crashed as NYC living newbie. Any time someone asked, I told them my major was 'malfunction.' Got a few chuckles. Back when I worked there, I would always look forward to the NYPD Scooter meetups on Fridays.

You get the shopping. Besides the aforementioned DSW, Puma and American Eagle, there's also a Forever 21, Filene's Basement and a Strawberry. Just west on 14th St. is a Shoemania. Really, you have no excuse for leaving the area without a new pair of shoes. You can look for whatever it is that the Virgin Megastore is selling these days, hit up Circuit City for your new LCD TV to watch the NFL on...oh wait, that's just my dream...

The place is just always hopping. I guess this is a relatively recent development (last 10 years or so) as my Aunt who lived in the city said Union Square wasn't always such a great place. But now it's one of my favorite spots. The Union Square Partnership site details upcoming events and has some nice photos. I had to run to work earlier, and I walked down to the Square en route to Whole Foods. I couldn't believe how crowded it was. People sitting on the steps at the southern end of the park, tons of people at the Green Market, skateboarders trying was great! I bought a sandwich at Toasties and chowed in the park. Now that tourist season is dying down the whole city has kind of taken on this chill vibe.

I wish I had brought my camera, I'll have to run down this weekend and snap some crowd photos.

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