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.”
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.
PHOTOS: #1, 4 and 6: Rebecca Major
#2, 3 and 5: John Quilty