It seems that not a year goes by without this short stretch undergoing drastic changes. Case-in-point, the past few months have seen the addition of a T.G.I. Friday's, a new bike lane, a Duane Reade and a Best Buy. Granted, the commercialization is nothing new – that's been a steadfast feature of Union Square for many years – but the turnover of retail is a bit troublesome.
Union Square East, as a name, only exists for the three short blocks between 14th St and 17th St – connecting Park Avenue with 4th Avenue (and eventually Lafayette Street) – and it lives up to its unique moniker; feeling very little like the blocks that come before or after it. There's a good mixture of local businesses and chains, all juxtaposed with the park on the west side of the street. Starting on 17th Street you have the stately home of the New York Film Academy. While I can never quite tell if this place is for-real or not, they do seem to have enough cash to stake a claim to the old Tammany Hall building, having been there since 1994. Following that you have a series of small local stores as well as The Children's Place. The following block is mostly commercial with the aforementioned T.G.I. Friday's and a Babies 'R' Us taking up the majority here.
After walking south of 15th Street, pedestrians need to be careful while wandering since it can be very easy to end up stranded on the large island that sits between the north and south-bound lanes of Union Square East as it funnels traffic to and from 4th Avenue and Broadway. To be fair, you're not actually stranded, but I often get a bit ticked off when I have to walk half a block out of the way only to double-back to get to where I was originally going.