Volume 74, Number 37 | January 19 -25, 2005

Business commissioner gives pavilion restaurant good review

At last Thursday’s annual meeting of the Union Sq. Partnership, Robert Walsh, commissioner of the city’s Department of Small Business Services, gave his nod of approval to the concept of a year-round restaurant in the Union Sq. pavilion as part of the renovation plan for the square’s north end.

“I love the idea,” said Walsh, who was director of the Partnership in the 1990s, when it was still known as the 14th St.-Union Sq. Business Improvement District. “They’re not taking anything away,” he said. “It’s not like the pavilion was a recreation center. It was a storage center. It’s one of the most underused, nonfunctional buildings in New York.”

Walsh recalled that when Eric Petterson, a partner in Coffee Shop at Union Sq., made the investment and opened up Luna Park restaurant as a summer concession in the pit south of the pavilion building nine years ago, he was taking a big risk. At the time, the area around the pavilion was seen as a dark, no-man’s land where drug dealers and users hung out.

“At night, you couldn’t go into that part [of the park]. Before the restaurant was put in, it was out of bounds,” Walsh said, adding that a new full-time restaurant “will add light, eyes and ears to the park…. This will just energize the whole area, add life and activity.” Noting he’s a father of a 10-year-old, he said he could envision parents with children who are about that age eating at the restaurant, while keeping an eye on their children frolicking in the playground.

Karen Shaw, the Partnership’s current director, said the plan will double the playground space on either side of the pavilion building, for the first time provide separate bathrooms for the playgrounds and won’t take away any open space on the north plaza that is used for rallies and gatherings. She added there would actually be more space for Greenmarket farmers, because the square’s corners will be filled out.

Shaw expressed bewilderment at the opposition to the renovation plan by some members of the community.

“We have a multimillion dollar project that will improve the life of this neighborhood,” Shaw stressed. “Why people would thumb their nose at it, I don’t understand.”

Lincoln Anderson

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