"Union Square Park wasn't named to honor the labor movement - or the winning side in the Civil War, for that matter. The label has more prosaic origins: when city planners laid out the square in the 1830s, it sat at the union of three major roads, where stagecoaches picked up routes leading to Albany or Boston.
The traffic that circumnavigates its thumb-shaped green space these days has slightly less room to maneuver. Over the last two decades, New York has gradually increased the park's size to its present 3.6 acres by adding castoff lots and absorbing parts of streets. The change has been one factor turning the park - with its statues of former presidents, long lines of benches and rows of thick oaks - into a destination spot.
Yet when vehicles converge on one spot, there can be collisions, and the same is true of interests at the square. One example is the battle over its $20 million renovation."