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

now

2009

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).

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

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

Union Square FOR Sale? … Judge rules NYC Parks Department and local BID can Proceed with Renovations that Will Likely Include Privatized Restaurant

Union Square Park Not for SaleUpdated April 2nd, 2009

It had been so quiet on the Union Square Park Pavilion front, and, frankly, it seemed like this had been a victory in the effort to save our public space.

The issue? Whether the historic Union Square Pavilion should be turned into a private restaurant at the behest of Mayor Bloomberg, NYC Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, and Union Square BID co-chair and restauranteur Danny Meyer.

What would this mean? This would take away the public space from everyday people and remove an integral part of NYC’s history from public usage.

$12 Pinot Noir anyone?

Although in more recent years no one’s been allowed in it, the Union Square Pavilion has been used throughout history as a site for political speeches and demonstrations, including the first Labor Day Parade in 1882. The hope was that the space could be used for the community, for performances, art, a museum with the history of the area, play space (although with 15,000 square feet of playground in the park – the playground itself was tripled and numerous trees cut down in the process – children have a lot of space as it is), etc. It is an opportunity to be creative.

Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe never misses an opportunity to link with a private corporation and is continuously seeking ways to turn NYC’s parks and public spaces into playgrounds for Mayor Bloomberg’s friends, manipulating them into homogenized, bland spaces devoid of their unique histories and charm. (See also: Washington Square Park)

NY State Supreme Court Judge Jane Solomon ruled Monday (3/30) on the case of Union Square Community Coalition and others vs. the New York City Parks Department and Union Square Partnership (local Business Improvement District). Her previous ruling was what was keeping a restaurant from going in to the historic Union Square Pavilion.

In a somewhat confusing decision, she dismissed the USCC’s lawsuit against the City and the BID because she said it was “unripe” (not ready to be argued) because it was unclear if the city’s plans – purposefully evasive – even included a restaurant. She ruled that USCC could come back to court once the city declares a restaurant is actually in their plans. However, it is pretty well known that millions of dollars are being spent to prepare for a restaurant. So you can, most likely, expect some more court action soon.

Union Square Not for Sale is asking people to put pressure on NY City Council Member Rosie Mendez (it’s her district) and Danny Meyer.

They write:

“The politicians and fat cats that are pushing to take away our public space and put it into private hands are vulnerable to public pressure, and we need to make them feel it. Councilmember Rosie Mendez needs to answer the question of why she signed off on this destructive, short-sighted plan in the first place. Danny Meyer needs to be called out publicly for hatching the scheme to take away play space for kids and performance space for artists. The Pavilion was designed and built with taxpayer money for public use. Privatizing it so that only paying customers can use it is just plain wrong.”

Contact info:

NY City Council Member Rosie Mendez phone; 212-677-1077
email: Rosie.Mendez-at-council.nyc.gov

Restauranteur and BID co-chair Danny Meyer/Union Square Hospitality Group phone: 212-228-3585
email: info-at-ushgnyc.com; dannymeyer-at-ushgnyc.com ******************************************************************

WSP Blog’s last post on this before the case being argued again in court on December 8th is here.

Union Square Park Court Case Back in Court Monday, December 8th – City Trying to Put Restaurant back on the ‘Table’

Union Square Park Not for Sale

Union Square Not for Sale informs us: “In case you didn’t already know, the only thing currently standing in the way of the city turning our beloved Pavilion into a swank (private) restaurant is a court decision made by Judge Jane Solomon in April 2008. This Monday, December 8th, she will hear the city argue for the dismissal of the case.”

The issue here is further takeover of our public space by a private corporation. The pavilion at Union Square Park has a noteworthy history as a venue for protest and free speech including serving as the site of the first Labor Day Parade Rally. In addition, the interior was open to the public for years and included a children’s space and music area. It is not as if the Union Square area is lacking in restaurants but it is lacking in free, public, non-privatized open space.

Union Square Not for Sale is asking people to turn out to the court hearing.

Here are the details:

Union Sq. Park Court Date

Monday December 8, 2008 – 3:00pm
New York State Supreme Court
60 Centre Street, Room 432 (Part 55)
Justice Jane S. Solomon

Additional Background from Union Sq Not for Sale:
“Union Square Park Pavilion Litigation. In April 2008, the Union Square Community Coalition(USCC) filed a lawsuit (USCC v. NYC Parks, Index No. 08/105578) challenging the Parks Department and Union Square Partnership’s plans to install a restaurant in the historic pavilion.

The court issued a preliminary injunction, which prevents the operation of a restaurant, or the installation of fixtures for a restaurant, pending further order of the Court. In so doing, the court found that USCC is likely to prevail on its central claim – that without state legislative approval, the restaurant would be an unlawful alienation of parkland – once that claim is ripe. The City has moved to dismiss the case, claiming it is both unripe (because, allegedly, several steps remain in the process before a restaurant concession could be offered) and non-meritorious.”