Volume 75, Number 22 | October 19 - 22, 2005

Villager photos by Elisabeth Robert

Local politicians, including Tom Duane, far left, and Scott Stringer, center, bashed the plan for a seasonal restaurant in the Union Sq. pavilion last Sunday.

Pols say Union Sq. restaurant must go through Albany

By Albert Amateau

Elected officials turned out in force on Sunday at a Union Square Park rally calling on Mayor Bloomberg to drop plans by the city Department of Parks and the Union Square Partnership business improvement district for a private seasonal restaurant in the pavilion at the north end of the park.

Neighbors and officials at the Oct. 16 rally, organized by New York City Park Advocates, led by Geoffrey Croft, also demanded that the city begin immediate construction on an expanded playground as part of the long-delayed redesign of the north end of the park and the plaza just to the north.

Assemblymembers Richard Gottfried and Scott Stringer — the latter who was recently elected Democratic candidate for Manhattan borough president — both contended that leasing a restored pavilion for a private restaurant use would require the approval of the State Legislature and they vowed to fight the move.

“We don’t need to privatize public park space for another restaurant in a district that has the best restaurants in the world,” Gottfried said. “The city already has the money to build an expanded playground and it should be done immediately,” Gottfried said, adding that the park redesign should “maintain the park’s historic function as a place of public assembly.” The north plaza is where labor unions rallied for the eight-hour day in 1882 and where mass protests have been a tradition for 150 years.

Last May, the Parks Department announced it would revise its original plan for the $14 million redesign of the park’s north end and lease the pavilion for seasonal restaurant use instead of a year-round operation. The department also said it would expand the playground space by one-third, from 10,500 square feet to 14,275 square feet. But final plans have not yet been made public.

“We want the city to tell us specifically what it plans to do,” said Stringer.

State Senator Tom Duane said, “The playground shouldn’t be held hostage for an expensive restaurant that most of us couldn’t afford to go to.”

The city insists that a restaurant franchise in the pavilion, built in 1930 and now in bad shape, would pay for its restoration and would provide revenue to maintain the park.

Carol Greitzer, former city councilmember, said that she and other opponents of the city plan are asking various institutions about possible funding to maintain the park. “The city should have done that, but they haven’t, so we’re doing it,” she said.

Others at the rally included Rosie Mendez, Democratic district leader and candidate for City Council in District 2, which includes Union Square, as well as the East Village and Lower East Side; Democratic District Leader Louise Dankberg, representing the 74th Assembly District, Part C, which includes the Gramercy area, and Paula Schaeffer, president of the Tilden Democratic Club.

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