Calling Mayor De Blasio to Take Union Sq Restaurant Off Park’s Menu Sunday, March 9th | A Cautionary Tale for Washington Square

Union Square Park Pavilion While Under Construction

Tomorrow! Union Square Park at 12 noon. Join press conference calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio to “cancel the Bloomberg- era contract” to place a high-end bar/restaurant in the historic Pavilion in Union Square Park.

Scheduled to attend: U.Ss Representative Carolyn Maloney, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer,  NY State Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, State Senators Liz Krueger and Brad Hoylman, NY City Council Member Corey Johnson, civil rights attorney Norman Siegel, and children, parents, seniors, and community organizations including The Union Square Community Coalition, and representatives for more than 50 neighborhood associations.

WHERE: Union Square Park – East 16th St.  (South of the Pavilion by the Lincoln statue)
WHEN: Sunday, March 9, 2014, at 12: 00 p.m.

Privatization, Danny Meyer, A Cautionary Tale & how it Applies to Washington Square:

The high end restaurant being pushed through by the private BID (business improvement district) in charge of Union Sq Park serves as a cautionary tale for those watching the situation at Washington Square Park and the private conservancy, pushed through by the Parks Department and the Community Board, and framed by its founders to the community as being a “little friends’ group” when clearly the organization’s aims were much, much larger.

Privatization of public space is big business

How this restaurant concept at Union Square Park got pushed through by a private entity is just one example of it. Who would think this is the right use for a historic landmarked pavilion – other than a private corporation?! A private group which was at once helmed by restauranteur Danny Meyer. Meyer did quite well for himself at Madison Square Park where he started his own “friends group” which then enabled him to get the Shake Shack in there as his “friends group” morphed fairly quickly (just two years later) into the private, mega-commercial Madison Square Park Conservancy. Restauranteur Mario Batali is now on the board of the private conservancy being challenged at Washington Square – what if one day that new glass “pergola” building (update on that next!) on Washington Square South is promoted for a private restaurant space? Don’t think that could happen? Think again.

There is no such thing as a “little friends group” when it comes to our parks and public spaces which, as NYC Park Advocates’ founder Geoffrey Croft writes, “are increasingly being used as cash cows” and “under constant threat from private interests under the previous administration.”

ADDITIONAL UNION SQUARE PARK BACKGROUND from New York City Park Advocates:

The area around Union Square Park has the lowest amount of playground space but the highest concentration of restaurants in the entire city! In Community District 5 there are only two playgrounds, but more than 150 eating establishments, bars and markets within just a two-block radius of the park.

Despite this history, and the serious need for additional recreational and sheltered community space, since 2004, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Union Square Partnership, a business improvement district (“BID”), have attempted to seize thousands of square feet of potential recreation and neighborhood space by turning the historic Pavilion into a high-end bar and restaurant despite vehement community opposition. The BID, run by Bloomberg’s former deputy press secretary,  paid for and pushed though a plan which displaces all of the traditional community uses. The BID has been allowed to dictate public land use policy aided by an eight million dollar anonymous donation. 

There is no need for another eatery in the neighborhood when children in the surrounding area are desperate for more play space.

Critics also charge that proposed new seasonal restaurant and its outdoor seating area will also dramatically alter the Parks’ historic first amendment and free speech role by prohibiting these uses in the pavilion and in the North end of the park year-round. Union Square was designated as a National Historic Landmark in large part because of these important uses which began in 1882 in the park’s first pavilion. See more at A Walk in the Park Blog. …

The Mayor has the legal right and unfettered discretion to cancel the [restaurant] contract for any reason.  As the concession agreement provides and the Law Department explained to the court, the license is freely terminable “at will” by the Parks Commissioner at any time which the City has vigorously argued.

For more than 130 years, the historic Pavilion in Union Square Park has served many vital functions to all New Yorkers – a covered playspace for children and mothers, a bandstand, a reviewing stand, a speakers’ rostrum, and as a focal point for countless labor rallies and social protests.  Recently the pavilion has also been used for wonderful new uses like free arts and film programs as well as for dance classes.

Support Union Square Park as a public space, not private restaurant!

Also, please write to the Mayor and City Council Speaker, as follows:

Mayor Bill de Blasio
City Hall
New York, NY 10007
Email:  Contact the Mayor

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito
City Hall –   New York, NY 10007
(212) 788-6960
[email protected]

Previously at Washington Square Park Blog:

Will Mayor de Blasio Take Union Square Park Restaurant Off the Table? March 3, 2014

Photo: Deanna

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