This morning three mobile food trucks and a food cart officially took their proud place amidst the 1870s Olmstead and Vaux designed former sheepfold in Central Park. The vendors are replacing the famed Tavern on the Green restaurant, once the highest grossing restaurant in America.
The vendors will pay the City $ 285,000 annually. Ladle of Love is paying $ 100,000, Pera Restaurant, $ 90.000, Van Leeuwen, $ 50,000, Rickshaw Dumpling, $ 45,000. That's about about $2 million less than what the city would have received under the former licensing agreement with the LeRoy family, which ran the old Tavern, according to the New York Times. (The vendors have a second year option according to a source familiar with the deal.)
It’s a far cry from the $86 million recently offered by Jennifer LeRoy over 20 years. The Bloomberg administration rejected her bid and instead awarded a new concession license to Dean Pole, who runs the nearby Boathouse Cafe in Central Park. Mr. Pole offered just $57.3 million, almost $ 30 million dollars less. He’s since been unable to reopen the 66-year-old, 23,000-square-foot restaurant.
In August, the city tore down the Crystal Room, which was built in the mid-1970s by Warner LeRoy when he took over the restaurant. An eight-foot-high fence was erected to keep prying eyes away. A drab concrete slab now occupies the area where the Crystal Room once stood. A 20-foot-high wall partially obstructs views of the rustic, tile-roofed Victorian sheepsfold designed by Olmstead and Vaux. The wall has a blown up blue print (behind the trucks) of the building's original entrance. Central Park Conservancy President Douglas Blonsky said he hopes to restore the original entrance.
A source told A Walk In The Park that Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Patti Harris personally toured the site and were responsible for making the decision to tear down the Crystal Room. The Mayor's office declined to comment.
The 350-seat Crystal Room alone brought Tavern on the Green more than $6 million a year, according to Ms. LeRoy.
The Central Park Conservancy was awarded a sole-source concession agreement to run a visitor’s center, souvenir shop and bicycle rental stand in an adjacent parking lot.
This morning, while overseeing the final touches for this afternoon's opening, Mr. Blonsky said they would "break even" on the visitor center and that any profit would be invested back into the surrounding area of the park.
The city tried to put the best face on its opening, with Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe touting the “centrally located” information booth.
"We were just aghast that they would put food trucks in Central Park," said a Community Board 8 member.
"To put food trucks there, it’s like, did [Bloomberg] have some vendetta against the LeRoy family? Granted, the food wasn't that great, but it was a money maker, one of the most popular tourist destinations, and to have food trucks there? Talk about tacky. You have an established restaurant and you put in food trucks?
"We are making the best of a situation," a city source said.
Lack of Community Consultation
The Parks Department came before the Parks Committee of Community Board 8 with details of the project only a few weeks before today's opening. They presented the plan as a "done deal," according to a source. In a contentious meeting last month, sources say, community board members yelled at Charles Kloth, director of concessions in the Parks Department’s revenue division, when he finally came before the board.
"Normally we don't shout, but every single person on the community board was shouting at the Parks Department, because we were left out of the equation,” said a member.
"Didn't Adrian [Benepe] go on record saying he was going to bring things to community boards before they acted? Well, he didn't. We were blindsided. He sent two young people [to a previous meeting] who had to be like 19 and 20 years old. They couldn't answer a single question; they had no idea what was going there. They had no idea – it was laughable. [Benepe] said he was going to vet things at the community board level before they made important decisions. They just go right ahead storm trooping through Central Park and other parks.
"It’s really disgraceful. Honesty isn't one of their strong suits."
The Parks Department declined to comment or to answer questions by press time.
Tavern on the Green Food Trucks OUTRAGE Community Board
gothamist - October 16, 2010 - John Del Signore