A decade ago, during the Great Recession,
Hudson Square was a neighborhood known as the gateway to the Holland Tunnel.
Its streets packed with cars bound for Jersey, the heyday of being New York City’s former printing district was long gone. Beautifully built loft buildings stood half empty and there was almost no commercial business or pedestrian traffic to speak of.
But today that has changed.
In the past 10 years, fueled by a thriving economy, careful strategic planning, and the support of the city and the business community, the Hudson Square Business Improvement District has emerged and Hudson Square is thriving. Vacancies decreased 300 percent and development increased from zero to 4.75MM square feet. Grab-and-go establishments have doubled, and daytime pedestrian foot traffic grew from 30,000 a day to 70,000.
But what Hudson Square is known for is its creative sector. Sixty percent of the workforce is employed by a technology, media, or communications company. Google and Disney are moving their headquarters in, too.
All of that was before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Since the shutdown, pedestrian traffic dropped over 80 percent, 87 percent of retail businesses have closed, and many other businesses have reinvented themselves in response to the crisis.
By mid-March Adafruit, a maker of tools, equipment, and electronics, pivoted. Now it creates face shields for healthcare workers and electronic components for much-needed ventilators. Now, the company is making personal protective equipment and essential items available to all New Yorkers on its website.
Then there’s Vivvi. The employer-sponsored childcare center provides its 12-hour services exclusively to medical professionals and other essential employees on a drop-in emergency basis.
The neighborhood also is home to Deborah Miller Catering and Great Performances, which would normally be catering spring galas and other big events. But today, the companies feed frontline workers and the homebound elderly.
“While our creative businesses work on technologies, messaging and communications to get us through to tomorrow, the local businesses that support them are helping us get through today,” says Ellen Baer, president of the Hudson Square Business Improvement District. “We’re proud to serve this resilient and forward-looking community.”
The Hudson Square BID and its businesses are harnessing their resources and strengths to aid in the neighborhood’s recovery.
And although the answers aren’t all figured out, business districts can’t afford to just think about today. There will be a tomorrow and the Hudson Square BID is preparing for it.