City Announces Plans for Restaurant At Union Square Park; Further Privatization of Public Space?



Updated 1:04 p.m. – Gothamist reports that Union Square North Restaurant Finally Gets a Restauranteur. The restaurant, if all goes according to the city’s plans, jumps on the trend of “local,” “seasonal,” “sustainable,” so currently in favor. (I’m not opposed to any of that, except when they seem to be used as marketing buzz words.)

Commenters at the Gothamist site were overall not in favor. Laura Newman wrote, “In a neighborhood filled to the max with restaurants, this is a such a terrible use of the park.  It’s a park!!  Plus, the pavilion is a monument to free speech and should be respected as suchEmma Goldman is going to weep.”

Activism efforts put forth in 2009 by groups such as Union Square Not For Sale drew attention to the city’s attempt to take over the historic pavilion for a restaurant space. Luna Park, the restaurant previously in Union Square, utilized the space adjacent to the Pavilion, not within.

From Gothamist:

The new restaurant will be open from May through October offering “casual and affordable food service in the newly restored historic Pavilion in Union Square Park.” In the off season the space will be used for educational and recreational activities open to the public: childrens’ programs, fitness programs, and films from the Parks Department, and public education programs to encourage healthy eating habits from the Greenmarket.

The latter sounds like a great year-round purpose for the space, no?

A Walk in the Park Blog reports that the legal case will again move forward with this announcement based on the premise that this usage requires state legislative approval and is an “alienation of parkland.”

Although part of the New York City public park system, Union Square Park is run by a private entity, the Union Square Partnership, a local Business Improvement District (BID).


** Previous WSP Blog Post with history from 2009: Union Square For Sale?

** Also, this post on Union Square Tree Destruction – See Before & After!

Now about that redesign of Washington Square Park…

The photo above was taken by the New York City Parks Department and provided to the local media. It appears in this week’s Villager along with the information that the local Greenwich “Village Alliance”/8th Street BID(Business Improvement District) gave some money towards the “renovation” of Washington Square Park ($125,000 now; $125,000 later), thereby expressing its approval of the Parks Department’s controversial plan to redesign the historic Park.

Posing here with the BID members are Community Board 2 Chair Brad Hoylman, Community Board 2 Parks Committee Chair Tobi Bergman, City Council Member Alan Gerson, Speaker Quinn’s Community liaison Grey Elam, and NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, among others.

They all look so happy, don’t they?

Given the overwhelming disapproval their constituents have expressed towards the City’s “renovation” plan and the lack of transparency and factual information the NYC Parks Department has provided about the “renovation” of this landmarked Park, I question whether any of the aforementioned people — other than Commissioner Benepe (we know where he stands) — ought to be trotting themselves out for a photo op and appear in this photo.

Yet there they are.

How does Washington Square Park stand a chance amidst Mayor Bloomberg’s agenda if these are the people designated to speak up for it?  And they don’t.