Taste of the Village at the Park – Recap

Updated 10/30 — So, “Taste of the Village,” happened in mid-September at the Park, hosted by the Village Alliance, the 8th Street BID. This post about the event got delayed due to dying trees, stalled construction and the occupying of Washington Square Park. Since I try to mix it up a bit here, even a bit late, I wanted to report back on the event.

Readers of WSP Blog know that I am not in favor of the trend of privatization of public space — which has increased greatly under the Bloomberg Administration — that includes endless reliance on the model of park conservancies and BIDs – business improvement districts – to either oversee or be entrusted with funding and programming at parks.

We could certainly tie the Village Alliance (the BID from nearby 8th Street) among those pushing at the onset to dramatically redesign the park, particularly under former director Honi Klein. (Klein, inexplicably, also held a position on Community Board 2). There’s a new executive director at the Alliance now, William Kelley, who seems a little more of the times.

This was the first “Taste of the Village” — which is considered a “benefit” to raise funds forthe park and has taken place for the last 9 years — under his watch. I thought it might be nice to experience the event. Kelley accommodated my request to attend and here are some photos and commentary.

8th Street Stalwart Eva's

The Lion on University Place

Mario Batali's GelOtto

Band at the Event

The Fountain in the background

wine tasting

Caviar Pie from Knickerbocker Bar & Grill

George Washington looks on

Set between the Arch and taking over part of the Fountain Plaza with the Fountain in the background, the evening focused on tables laid out with sampling – tastings – from local or nearby restaurants. There was a strong emphasis on meat dishes with only two vegetarian and onetwo fish options. The fish, fluke I believe, from Perilla on Jones Street was quite good. (I don’t eat meat so, in my opinion, Taste of the Village could nix a few meat dishes and add some other more vegetarian-friendly options.) There were vendors offering wine – red, white and rose – as a band played against the backdrop of the fountain.

Tastings included offerings from local restaurants and businesses such as Alma, Eva’s, La Palapa, 8th Street Wine Cellar, Gusto, Knickerbocker Bar & Grill, BLT Burger, The Lion, Otto and Argo and Rob’s Really Good Teas (which I really like).

The ticket price was $50 and director William Kelley says that about 400 people attended (did it seem that high? I’m not sure). He said that typically the organization raises about $50,000 for the park (includes money from sponsors).

People I noted by sight were members of Community Board 2 and also the city’s Parks Department. I was surprised that there was no talk or introduction as to why people were there — but maybe that was for the best. Overall, it was a festive soiree and those attending seemed to enjoy it.

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Still, it raises questions – We have a city public space undergoing a redesign that started out with a budget of $16 millionwhich many felt was already unnecessarily high. Now, we see that the projected costs have skyrocketed to double that. If money had been properly allocated and monitored to begin with, would we really need private forces to be raising money to upkeep the park?

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Photos #4, 5, 7, 8: David Sigal

Photos #1, 2, 3, 6, 9: Cathryn

Local Business Improvement District hosts “Taste of the Village” at Washington Square Park Wednesday, September 16th, 6-8 p.m.

Updated (See my question at the end)

Well, I’m not the biggest fan of the Village Alliance, the Business Improvement District, formerly named the 8th Street BID that at some point changed its name to the much more benign Village Alliance.  As the BID that promotes business in the Village down along 8th Street, they have worked to change the character of that strip to more high end (think Marc Jacobs/Magnolia Bakery end of Bleecker Street) – maybe some for the better, and some not (they’ve prompted the booting out of stores they don’t consider up to the proper caliber).  They have an interest in Washington Square Park being as un-counter culture and spruced up and non-controversial as possible.  And there is a concern that they are in line to be part of a private conservancy at Washington Square Park.

But, who’s to say this isn’t a nice event nonetheless? They will present a benefit, “Taste of the Village,” to raise money for Washington Square Park at Washington Square Park on Wednesday, September 16th, 6-8 p.m.  Tickets are $40 and part of the park will be closed off for the event.

Here’s what they say about it:

Celebrate the best tasting and wine festival of the year with a benefit for Washington Square Park. Mark the seventh anniversary of this event by inviting friends who love extraordinary food from award-winning chefs such as Dan Barber, named the nation’s top chef in 2009 by the James Beard Foundation; Mario Batali of International Acclaim and Chef Akhtar Nawab of Eletteria. With the purchase of a $40 ticket, you’ll enjoy more restaurants, more wines, and more pleasure gathered under one big tent.

Location: Washington Square Park

More Information:
(212) 777-2173
Village Alliance

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Oh, does anyone have any opinions on this event?