Volume 75, Number 21 | October 12 - 18, 2005

New Union Sq. group has distaste for any kind of pavilion restaurant

By Albert Amateau

Citizens for Union Square, a new group opposed to the current plan for the redesign of the north end of Union Sq. Park, met on Sept. 28 to explore the possibility of state and federal funding for a plan more to their liking.

The group, led by Stanley Bulbach, Jack Taylor and former City Councilmember Carol Greitzer, is fighting the plan proposed by the Parks Department and the Union Square Partnership business improvement district for a private-sector restaurant in the pavilion on the north end of the park.

The group also wants the park redesign to include an expanded and unified children’s playground that is not dependent on a privatized pavilion.

“We’re especially concerned about the plan to put trees on the plaza on the north end of the park, which would make it unusable as the traditional space for free speech, protest and public assembly,” said Taylor. “The nation’s first Labor Day demonstration took place in the north plaza in 1882,” Taylor noted.

Since Union Sq. is a national historic landmark and is also on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, the citizens group invited representatives of elected officials to explore alternatives to funding by the city and the Partnership BID.

Representatives of State Senator Tom Duane and Assemblymembers Steve Sanders, Deborah Glick and Richard Gottfried said they would meet together later on possible state funding for the project. A representative of Assemblymember Scott Stringer, the Democratic nominee for Manhattan borough present, also attended, along with aides to Congressmembers Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn Maloney.

Last May, the Parks Department announced a change in its original plan to lease a restored pavilion to a year-round private restaurant operator. The new plan calls for leasing the restored pavilion for restaurant use from late spring to autumn when weather permits. Nevertheless, the restaurant would still have the potential to be converted to year-round use later.

The Parks Department insists that revenue from a private concession in the pavilion is necessary to pay for maintaining the park. But the citizens group adamantly opposes any privatization.

Parks’s revised scenario also eliminates an outdoor restaurant seating area on the south side of the pavilion and calls for using the space to enlarge the playground from 10,500 square feet in the previous version to 14,275 square feet.

Moreover, Taylor noted that drawings and details of the enlarged playground have not been made public. “We don’t believe the plans will be made public until after the election in November,” he added.

Carly Smith, a spokesperson for the Parks Department, said final plans are not completed. “We’ll make them public when they are ready,” she said. She confirmed later that the plans would be final and not subject to review and revision.

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