(from L) US Representative Carolyn Maloney, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, former Council member Carol Greitzer, NY State Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, NYC Park Advocates president Geoffrey Croft, City Council Member Corey Johnson and civil rights attorney Norman Siegel.
The new administration has an opportunity to set a very important tone concerning its public policy towards parks.
By Geoffrey Croft
Children, parents, seniors, elected officials, advocates, community residents and representatives from more than 50 neighborhood associations came together on Sunday to call on Mayor de Blasio to cancel the Bloomberg - era contract to build a controversial high-end bar/restaurant in the historic Woman's & Children's Pavilion in Union Square Park.
On Friday seven elected officials sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio with the request.
The signatories included US Representative Carolyn Maloney, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, NY State Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, State Senators Liz Krueger and Brad Hoylman, City Council Member Corey Johnson.
For the past decade the community has been fighting to have the historic pavilion in Union Square Park restored to its former uses which include a sheltered, indoor recreation center that served a variety of year-round recreation and free public uses for children, teens, families, seniors, and the greater community at large.
The area around Union Square Park has the lowest amount of playground space but the highest concentration of restaurants in the entire city. In Community District 5 there are only two playgrounds, but more than 150 eating establishments, bars and markets within just a two-block radius of the park.
Despite this history, and the serious need for additional recreational and sheltered community space, since 2004 Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Union Square Partnership, a business improvement district (“BID”), have attempted to seize thousands of square feet of potential recreation and neighborhood space by turning the historic Pavilion into a high-end bar and restaurant despite vehement community opposition. The BID, run by Bloomberg's former deputy press secretary, paid for and pushed though a plan which displaces all of the traditional community uses.
The BID has been allowed to dictate public land use policy aided by an eight million dollar anonymous donation.
The City's lawyers have repeatedly argued that the contract can be canceled by the administration at no cost to the tax payers.
said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney.
"It blows my mind that the previous administration would consider confiscating precious park space to develop another fancy eatery and watering hole. I strongly urge Mayor de Blasio to cancel the arrangement.
I join my colleagues in the neighborhood by saying that this is one of the dumbest ideas that I have seen, to take parkland and turn it into a restaurant," the Congresswoman continued.
"We need to stop this, we need to stop it now. And fortunately we have a new mayor who can turn this around. We are a community that is absolutely starved for open space and parkland...Every inch is valuable to the families and the children, and we need every square inch of this park to stay a park. We have lovely restaurants all around here, and we shouldn't have to give a large chunk of this park for a high end restaurant...We can think of hardly anything that is less suited for this park than a high end restaurant," she said.
said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.
"This neighborhood already has an enormous choice of restaurants – and a shortage of park space. To put a restaurant here, in this designated National Historic Landmark, puts a price tag on the public’s enjoyment of what should remain a public space.
This is a community of restaurants, and all you have to do is walk around to see them all, and there's very little park space. There are millions of people in this park every single day...We need every single opportunity for public space. This is really a unique, fabulous pavilion, and we want it available to the public, and that's why I'm here. I'm for restaurants in parks, but not this one," she said.