Union Square Park (also known as Union Square) is an important and historic intersection in New York City, located where Broadway and the Bowery came together in the early 19th century. Today it is bounded by 14th Street, Union Square East, 17th Street, and Union Square West. It is run and operated jointly by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation as well as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
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Important thoroughfares which lead away from the park are Broadway, leading both north and south; Fourth Avenue, leading southeast to the Bowery; and Park Avenue South, leading north to Grand Central Terminal. Union Square lies over 14th Street–Union Square, a New York City Subway complex served by the 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, R, and W trains. Neighborhoods around the park are the Flatiron District to the north, Chelsea to the west, Greenwich Village and New York University to the south, and Gramercy to the east.West End of London
The Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts at The New School is also nearby. The eastern side of the square is dominated by the Zeckendorf Towers.
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Union Square is noted for its impressive equestrian statue of George Washington, created by Henry Kirke Brown and unveiled in 1856. Other statues in the park include the Marquis de Lafayette, created by Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, Abraham Lincoln, created by Henry Kirke Brown and James Fountain, donated by Daniel Willis James and sculpted by Adolf Donndorf. A newer addition, added in 1986, is a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the southwest corner of the park.
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In April 1861, soon after the fall of Fort Sumter, Union Square was the site of a patriotic rally that is thought to have been the largest public gathering in North America up to that time.
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Site of social and political activism
The park has historically been the start or the end point for many political demonstrations. It is — and was in the past — a frequent gathering point for radicals of all stripes, whom one will often find speaking or demonstrating. On September 5, 1882, in the first Labor Day celebration, a crowd of at least 10,000 workers paraded up Broadway and filed past the reviewing stand at Union Square. Although the park was known for its union rallies and for the large 1861 gathering in support of Union troops, it was named in the 18th century for its location at the "union" of Bloomingdale Road (now Broadway) and Eastern Post Road (now extinct) decades before these gatherings.
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It was named a National Historic Landmark in 1997 primarily to honor it as the site of the first Labor Day parade.
In the days and weeks following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Union Square became a primary public gathering point for mourners. People created spontaneous candle and photograph memorials in the park and vigils were held to honor the victims. This was a natural role for the Square as Lower Manhattan below 14th Street, which forms Union Square's southern border, briefly became a "frozen zone," with no non-emergency vehicles allowed and pedestrians sometimes stopped and asked why they were venturing south by police and national guardsmen. In fact, for the first few days following the attacks, only those who could prove residency below 14th Street could pass. The Square's tradition as a meeting place in times of upheaval was also a factor.