Volume 74, Number 27 | November 03 - 09, 2004

Parks commissioner defends plan for restaurant in Union Sq. pavilion

By Albert Amateau

For Adrian Benepe, commissioner of Parks and Recreation, the long-awaited reconstruction of the north end and plaza of Union Sq. Park is being made possible by an unusually generous anonymous private donation of $5 million.

“It’s a no-strings gift and always has been,” said Benepe, adding, “I wish I could tell you who the donor is but we have to honor his wishes. He’s a resident of the Union Sq. area and he’s really modest.”

“Children are really the primary clients of the Parks Department and we always put children first,” he said. The new design will replace three inadequate play areas, he said. The play area in the two proposed lobes east and west of the pavilion will provide 65 percent more space that the two areas currently on the north end of the park, he said. The sand play area on the west side of the park will be changed. “It’s too small for swings and slides, so we plan to convert it into something special for children. It could be a children’s play lawn aimed at toddlers — with artificial turf if necessary. There are no end of ideas for it,” he said.

Benepe is not apologetic about the department’s intention to have a private restaurant concessionaire reconstruct and use the pavilion, which was built at the turn of the 20th century. “As long as there have been parks there have been concessions,” he said. “Restaurants serve park users, add to the life of parks and get income for the city,” he declared.

There are no city capital funds likely forthcoming to restore the pavilion and the plan calls for a concessionaire to contribute $2 million for the restoration of the building, Benepe noted. That sum is included in the city’s total of $8 million for the Union Sq. north end project.

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