Recap: * Union Square: Not For Sale * Yesterday’s Event

revbillypavillion 06-05-08Paul Robeson Hero of Union Square 06-05-08Crowd at Union Sq Gathering 06-05-08unionsqlinkingarms06-05-08Union Square Community Improvement District

Save Union Square 2008 gathering yesterday, Thursday, June 5th, at Union Square Park was quite the success!

Yes, there was a marching band! And a roving “Heroes of Union Square” walking tour featuring actors portraying George Washington, Paul Robeson, Emma Goldman, and Dorothy Day moving into different locations in the large space amidst the enthusiastic crowd gathered at the NorthWest corner of Union Square.

The Community Improvement District (the alternate version to how our communities can be imagined vs. the BID’s – business improvement district – “model”) table had a petition which gathered hundreds of signatures in a short time period. With marker, people wrote messages on price tags which were affixed to the construction site fence, such as “Not for Sale.”

The message:

Keep public parks public. No Private Restaurant in the Historic Union Square Park Pavilion !

Reverend Billy led the crowd with a spirited reading of the First Amendment several times to remind us – and our elected officials (like Mayor Bloomberg) – of our freedoms and rights.

City Council Member Rosie Mendez dropped by and spoke, defending her position of support for the restaurant, to a puzzled audience.

Towards the end, the crowd linked arms lining the north side and part of the west side of the fence surrounding Union Square, recited the First Amendment, and then festively marched over to the swank W Hotel, where the local Business Improvement District, Union Square Partnership (co-chaired by restauranteur Danny Meyer) was holding its annual self-congratulatory dinner. The Union Square Partnership has tremendous influence over Union Square Park and is the instigating force behind the proposal to place a private restaurant in the historic Pavilion.

It was quite an amazing scene to see people gathered around this upscale hotel with large-as-life, beautifully designed cardboard figures of George Washington and Emma Goldman, amidst the real-life actors portraying these noted figures, as well as the marching band, and raucous, impassioned crowd.

The spirit of the event was undeniable. The people inside the W in their evening attire sipping cabernet franc could not possibly have been experiencing anywhere near the vitality in the room that this diverse and dedicated gathering of people exhibited coming together to protect our public space.
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Not for Sale

PHOTOS: #1, 4 and 6: Rebecca Major
#2, 3 and 5: John Quilty
#7: Deanna

Reverend Billy & Friends give Union Square Partnership and Mayor Bloomberg a message

Union Square Park Not for SaleReverend Billy & Friends give notice to the Union Square Partnership and Mayor Bloomberg that the historic Union Square Pavilion is NOT For Sale.

A scene from last night, Wednesday, June 4th, atop the fenced-in Pavilion on the North side of Union Square amidst the construction.

The Union Square Pavilion is at the moment the site of a battle between those pushing a privatization agenda (specifically, the local BID: Union Square Partnership, led by restauranteur Danny Meyer, and Mayor Bloomberg who would like to insert a private restaurant there) and those who call for free speech, and demand that our history and our common public spaces be honored and preserved.

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We must inform the Tisch Family, the Danny Meyer’s, the NYU’s… that our Parks are Not for Sale. While also passing the word along to NYC Parks Commissioner Benepe, the New York City Council, and Mayor Bloomberg – the ones who are selling them off.

These are our treasured public spaces – our commons – and they need to remain that way.

Come to Union Square NorthWest corner (17th Street & Union Square West) TODAY, Thursday, June 5th, at 5 p.m. and join in on the fun as the Union Square Partnership celebrates itself (their annual self-congratulatory dinner is being held this evening at the W Hotel), we will celebrate and revel in our public space at Union Square Park.

* Expect marching bands, a “Heroes of Union Square Walking Tour,” community visioning sessions, and soapbox preaching.

* Expect surprises and spectacles and a glimpse of what the city CAN be.

* Come out and meet your neighbors in the square and defend the public’s right to public space.

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Some history of the Pavilion: George Washington and the Continental Army gathered at this spot in 1776. The Union Square Pavilion site was built as a stage for public assembly and democratic gathering. The first Labor Day Parade was held there in 1882. This is where our American conscience erupted in the songs of Paul Robeson, the shouts of Emma Goldman and the prayers of Dorothy Day. The 8-hour workday was born at Union Square and crowds surged before that reviewing stand in the tens of thousands. After September 11th, we gathered there instinctively in our grief and calls for peace.

What you can do NOW: Sign the petition.