Thursday, January 30, 2014

Pepsi And Verizon Invade Bryant Park - Bryant Park Corp. Refuses to Disclose How Much Its Receiving



Park Purpose? Verizon Power House pavilion. Like magic Bryant Park's iconic fountain has been made to temporarily disappear, hidden behind a large wall and flat-screen displays. More than 25,000 square feet of the historic park has been allowed to be transformed into convention center-like exhibit spaces for two multi-billion dollar corporations - Verizon (above) and Pepsi (below).  (Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge



A reproduction of the iconic Pepsi-Cola sign in Long Island City along the East River can be seen on the left in the Taste of PepsiCo event. 

The Bryant Park Corp., the not-for-profit company that privately manages the park, has refused to desclose how much it was recieving for renting out the public park land despite repeated requests.
  
Manhattan


By Geoffrey Croft



Welcome to PepsiCo and Verizon Park.



Major parts of historic Bryant Park have been taken over by Pepsi and Verizon for two separate marketing events, ostensibly in an effort to cash in on Sunday's Super Bowl game being held in New Jersey.  


More than 25,000 square feet of the historic park has been allowed to be transformed into convention center-like exhibit spaces for two multi-billion dollar corporations that cleary do not have a park purpose.  

Verizon, the country's largest U.S. wireless telecommunications business generated operating revenues of $120.6 billion in 2013 according to the company.   PepsiCo, the global soft drink and snack food giant had net revenues of more than $65 billion.  

Hidden behind a make-shift stage is the bronze and marble statue of William Cullen Bryant, the park's namesake, dimly lit in blue stage lighting.  


Bryant Park Corporation,  the not-for-profit company that privately manages the park for the city,  has long been criticized for exploiting the park for the sheer number and size of the commercial events it allows in renting out the public park each year. 

By law concession revenue from city parks must go to the City General Fund however under an unusual agreement the well-heeled group run by its president Daniel Biederman

 has been allowed to get away with keeping 100 % of the revenue whereby diverting money at the expense of other city services including public parks. Even Central Park does not have that  lucrative a deal.

Despite being able to divert more than a hundred million dollars over the years Mr. Biederman has repeatedly claimed the park is run without "any public money."

Repeated messages left for Mr. Biederman and  Joe Carella, a spokesman for Bryant Park Corp asking how much the group was receiving for renting out the park for these two events were not returned.  

On Wednesday, scant crowds staggered into the two separate exhibit spaces on the first day. 

Attendees to the Pepsico space were first subjected to full-body magnetometer security metal detectors searches.   Once inside guests were ascended upon by greeters wearing form fitting outfits who passed out a "Taste of PepsiCo passport" entitling them to receive free half bite-sized samples from eight stations.

Specialty menu items incorporating PepsiCo's 22 brands of products including Lays, Tropicana, Quaker Oats and Gatorade were created for the three-day event.  Cupcakes sprinkled with Doritos were hard to forget. 


Attendees to A Taste of Pepsico are first subjected to full-body magnetometer security metal detectors searches before being allowed to enter the event.  


The indoor space occupies 10,000 square feet including an 80 foot wide by 40 foot high custom-designed facility resembling a bio-dome.  Performers worked on several make-shift stages.  

Waiters walked around offering various Pepsi beverages in tiny plastic shot glass-sized cups.

Barely visible is the famous bronze and marble statue of William Cullen Bryant, the park's namesake,  which is hidden behind a stage. Small sections of the larger than life-size memorial - Herbert Adams sculptor and Thomas Hastings architect - were dimly lit in blue stage lighting. 

According to a Pepsico press release its three day event is meant to be a "Thank You Gift" to New York and New Jersey.  

Outdoor park space on both sides of the exhibit serve as security check points and guest entrances occupy even more of the park.

Over at the Verizon Power House pavilion, located on the northwest side of the park, park features fared no better. The park's iconic foundation was made to completely disappear, hidden behind a huge wall display with flat-screen TV's.

Attendees are applauded by a half dozen enthusiastic greeters as they enter the red carpeted 15,000 square foot pavilion.

The telecommunication giant billed the exhibit as "15,000 square feet of personal, interactive technology for football fans in New York City's Bryant Park. A Super Bowl Tech Journey for Football Fans. 

Once inside greeters half-heartedly attempted to direct guests to various stations including a touch wall,  a giant LED screen visualizing Verizon’s 4G LTE network and  a 270-degree projection mapping room.   

They also touted the NFL Mobile app.   

A second story skybox was built to showcase the company's soon to be launched  LTE  Multicast  service.   In order for guests to be allowed up they first had to hear a pitch by an attendee holding a tablet who blocked the stairs. 

As visitors exited they were offered phone power charging,  free bright red and black gloves and hot chocolate. 

Verizon Power House  replaced the Google's  Winter Wonderlab,  a  retail  popup  shop that hawked tablets and laptops streaming-video service that has there for a few days over the holidays. That store was across from the Stella Artois beer Chalice Factory.


Bryant Park Corp. officials are increasingly coming under fire for also signing 

non-disclosure agreements for the events being held on what is supposed to be public parkland, whereby avoiding even the slightest semblance of a public-review process. 


Information giant Google required them to keep quiet about its plans for the Wonderlab promo event.

The  Bryant Park Corp. officials also signed  non-disclosure agreements for a  T-Mobile marketing event featuring concerts by Shakira and Swizz Beatz which reportedly drew 7000 people. 

The same board raising concerns about these incidents however, Community Board 5, is also the same board who overwhelmingly approved more alcohol and less children and community space in Union Square Park by supporting the unwanted bar and restaurant in the pavilion. 


VIP Entry for PEPCITY.


Sign Of The Times.

Verizon's LTE Multicast Skybox.  


Verizon's exhibit space seen from the LTE Multicast Skybox on the second floor. 

Verizon Power House.

Verizon Power House pavillion -  41st street & Sixth Avenue.


Exterior near the rink.

Outdoor Signage.

PEPCITY.


Cupcakes sprinkled with Doritos were hard to forget at PEPCITY. 


Appetizing? Bacon strips held up by paper clips at the David Burke Kitchen station.  They made Mountain Dew Bacon Tacos with Sabra Guacamole,  Pepsi also owns Sabra.


Attendees at two of the free food sample stations.


Read More:

gothamist - January 30, 2014 - By John Del Signore  











Wednesday, January 22, 2014

City Council Parks Committee Members Named

Committee chairmanships for the newly elected City Council were announced today.

Parks and Recreation Committee

Mark Levine, Chair
(District 7 - Manhattan)

Darlene Mealy
(District 41 - Brooklyn)

Fernando Cabrera
(District 14 - Bronx)

Jimmy Van Bramer
(District 26 - Queens)

Andrew Cohen
(District 11 - Bronx)

Alan Maisel
(District 46 - Brooklyn)

Mark Treyger
(District 47 - Brooklyn)

Read More:

Crain' s New York Business - January 22, 2014 - By Chris Bragg



Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Central Park 5 Lawsuit Against City Put On Hold By Judge To Work Out Settlement


The Central Park Five, as seen in a PBS documentary, will have their $250 million lawsuit against the city put on hold while Mayor de Blasio’s administration gets a handle on the case.
The Central Park Five, as seen in an extraordinary PBS documentary, will have their $250 million lawsuit against the city put on hold while Mayor de Blasio’s administration gets a handle on the case. The lawsuit, brought by five men who were wrongly convicted in the infamous 1989 Central Park jogger rape case, got put on pause at the request of lawyers from both sides in order to work out a settlement.

Convicted rapist and murderer Matias Reyes eventually confessed to the brutal attack of 28-year-old investment banker Trisha Meili on April 19, 1989 while she jogged near 103rd Street.

The men filed suit in 2003 after their convictions were overturned.  The Bloomberg administration had refused to settle the case and instead wasted more than $ 6 million in tax dollars defending it.

Mayor de Blasio has vowed to settle the case.

Manhattan

The lawsuit brought by five men wrongly convicted of the infamous 1989 Central Park jogger rape was put on hold Tuesday so the city can work out a settlement.

Manhattan Federal Judge Ronald Ellis took the action at the request of lawyers for both the city and the plaintiffs to allow the de Blasio administration to get a handle on the case.

Footage taken shortly after the 1989 incident shows some of the then-teenage members of the Central Park Five being moved around by police.

Footage taken shortly after the 1989 incident shows some of the then-teenage members of the Central Park Five being moved from a police Pct. by cops.  (screen grab:  IFCFILMSTUBE VIA YOUTUBE)

Mayor de Blasio has vowed to settle the $250 million lawsuit, which was brought 11 years ago.


RELATED: CITY SPENT $6 MILLION IN CENTRAL PARK JOGGER CIVIL CASE: REPORT


"It's our intention to work as hard as we can in the next 30 days to achieve (a settlement)," Jonathan Moore, a lawyer for several of the plaintiffs, said in court Tuesday.

Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise, now in their 40s, had their convictions thrown out in 2002 when Matias Reyes, a convicted rapist and murderer behind bars for other crimes, confessed and DNA evidence confirmed his guilt in the case.

Read More:

New York Daily News - January 21, 2014 - By Daniel Beekman    



DNA Tests Confirm Remains Found Near MacNeil Park Are Of Missing Autistic Teen Avonte Oquendo


Police divers investigate the banks near Powell Cove in Queens on Thursday near Hermon A. MacNeil Park where the severed remains of missing autistic teen Avonte Oquendo, 14 were found.  (Photo: Jason Decrow/AP)

Queens

It’s Avonte. 

DNA testing has confirmed the remains found on a Queens beach are those of missing autistic teen Avonte Oquendo, the medical examiner’s office said Tuesday, according to the New York Daily News.

The family’s lawyer, David Perecman, held a press conference about the DNA results, and Avonte’s heartbroken mom, Vanessa Oquendo, was noticeably not present.  

“The news I bring is not good news,” Perecman said.

 “The police visited her earlier today and DNA revealed that the remains they found were those of Avonte Oquendo.

“She told me, ‘It's Avonte. They came. It's Avonte,’” he said.

 “Venessa was crying when I spoke to her.” 

He said it was unclear when funeral services for the teen would be held.   

Searchers began finding body parts, including arms, legs, and a lower torso, on the beach by College Point on Thursday. They found a skull Monday, the family’s lawyer said. 

The cause and manner of death are pending further study, the medical examiner's office said.

Avonte Oquendo, 14, has been missing since Oct. 4
Missing Poster of 14-year-old missing autistic teen Avonte Oquendo. A massive search and rescue operation was organized.



Avonte, 14, was last seen on Oct. 4 leaving the Riverview School in Long Island City along the East River waterfront. 

The family has been hoping that the remains were not his. 

They have notified the city that they intend to file suit because he was not prevented from leaving the school. Perecman said the filing would now be a wrongful death suit.  

 “I'm sure she’ll get good and angry (at the school),” he said. “I know I'm good and angry. I can't understand 13 students with three teachers and one gets away.” 

In the wake of Avonte’s disappearance, authorities frantically searched subway tunnels - Avonte was said to be fascinated by trains. They also made mass announcements in stations informing the public that the missing teen was wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black shoes. 

A tip line was set up and a $70,000 reward was offered for information about his whereabouts. Friends even set up a Facebook page to coordinate volunteer search efforts and share information. 

“This is depressing, very depressing,” said community advocate Tony Herbert, who helped search for Avonte. “Everybody was so hopeful that it wasn't him, but I guess we all kind of figured it would be. This is not good.” 

Herbert said Avonte's mother had been clinging to hope. 

“She stood by her word, ‘It isn’t Avonte until its Avonte,’” he said. “Hopefully this will get them some closure. A lot of energy went into making sure he was OK. I feel bad for them right now.”

Police continued to search the banks of the East River on Saturday.
Police continued to search the banks of the East River on Saturday. (Joe Marino/New York Daily News)

Read More:

A Walk In The Park - January 17,  2014


Friday, January 17, 2014

Skeletal Remains Wash Up Near Hermon A. MacNeil Park - Police Investigate Possible Missing Autistic Boy Link


Divers investigate a scene where a severed arm and a body were found on the banks near Powell Cove in Queens on Thursday, Jan. 16 near near Hermon A. MacNeil Park.

Queens


A skeletal human body part was discovered washed up on a beach in northern Queens Thursday night — and police are looking into whether articles of clothing also found can link it to missing autistic boy Avonte Oquendo, sources said, according to the New York Post.

The skeletal remains of a left arm were found by a teen girl on the waterfront near Hermon A. MacNeil Park in College Point at around 7:30 p.m., cops said. 

“We found the arm and it’s been here a while because it’s skeletal,” a police source said. “But where there’s an arm, there’s a body.” 

Also found was a dark-colored pair of size-5½ sneakers, according to law-enforcement sources. The sneakers match the description of the ones that Avonte, 14, was wearing when he went missing on Oct. 4 from a school in Long Island City.

Avonte Oquendo, 14, has been missing since Oct. 4
Missing Poster of 14-year-old missing autistic teen Avonte Oquendo.


The 14-year-old girl who initially discovered the arm wrote about the discovery on social media before alerting authorities, a police source said. 

“Instead of calling 911 right away, she got on Twitter and talked about it,” the source said. “Then she finally told her mom and they called 911.” 

An investigation was ongoing. 

Avonte was seen on surveillance video leaving the Center Boulevard School at about 12:30 p.m. on Oct. 4. Police and volunteers searched the city for months, including in subway tunnels, because Avonte’s family said the boy is fascinated by the subway system.

A $95,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the whereabouts of the teen, who cannot speak.


 Medical Examiner removes apparent remains from College Point cove where arm was found.
The Queens Medical Examiner's staff removes the human remains from College Point Thursday night. Police are probing a possible link to autistic teen Avonte Oquendo, who went missing from his Queens school Oct. 4. (Photo: Joseph Stepansky/New York Daily News)

Read More:

New York Post - January 17,  2014 -  By Frank Rosario and Larry Celona

Cops investigate human arm, legs found near Queens shoreline for link to missing teen Avonte Oquendo 


New York Daily News - January 17,  2014 - BY Rocco Parascandola,  Joseph Stepansky  and Mark Morales 

Human remains found in Queens; Avonte Oquendo family notified
WABC - January 16, 2014





Thursday, January 16, 2014

No Limits On Restaurant Space Or Prices In Parks - City



"I'm asking if a restaurant wanted to charge $100 for appetizers – and of course proportionally more for entrees and so on – it’s still a park purpose, so it’s OK even though only maybe very few people would be able to eat there?"  - New York State Court of Appeals Judge 

"I would say that is correct, your honor," City attorney Deborah A. Brenner


The City argued there is virtually is no limit on the amount of space a restaurant can occupy in a public park, or prices they can charge that are to high even if the vast majority of people would be prohibited from affording it  - a restaurant would qualify as a "park purpose" under the law.

The City also incorrectly argued in New State Court of Appeals on Tuesday that no matter what the circumstances the decision to install a restaurant is solely at the discretion of the Parks Commissioner. The Public Trust Doctrine, which provides that once land has been acquired for use as a municipal park, it cannot be used for non-park purposes without the approval of the State Legislature.  


The area around Union Square Park has the lowest amount of playground space but the highest concentration of restaurants in the entire city.  Since 2004 Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Union Square Partnership — a Business Improvement District/Local Development Corporation — have attempted to seize thousands of square feet of potential recreation and neighborhood space by turning the historic pavilion into a high-end restaurant.  The BID has been allowed to dictate public land use policy aided by an eight million dollar anonymous donation.


City - Wide

By Geoffrey Croft

Talk about a tale of two cities.

In a first court appearance under the new administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio, city lawyers argued that luxury restaurants belong in public parks – and it doesn’t matter how much they charge to eat there, how many people can't afford it or how much land they take away.

In fact, the city said, these eateries can take up to “98 percent” of a park. 

Under this scenario, the public would have no say in private businesses swallowing 826 acres of Central Park.

The city also argued the parks commissioner has unlimited power in making such decisions, once again completely eliminating the checks and balances system required by the Public Trust Doctrine.    

The controversial comments were made during oral arguments Tuesday in the state’s highest court, which is considering a lawsuit by residents around Union Square to stop a high-end restaurant from taking over the park’s historic pavilion. Courts have long ruled that parks are held in the public trust, and state law requires the alienation of parkland by the Legislature before the property can be used for non-park purposes.

The suit says the city violated the public trust doctrine in attempting to bypass the state Legislature to install the high-end restaurant in Union Square. The surrounding neighborhood has the city’s highest concentration of restaurants and the least amount of public play space.

For almost a decade, the community has been battling the plan, promoted by the area's business improvement district, the Union Square Partnership and the city.  The city has allowed the BID to dictate public land use policy aided by an $8 million anonymous donation.

The state's top judges repeatedly tried to get the city's lawyer, Deborah A. Brenner, to address why this particular restaurant would qualify as a "park purpose,” but she could not.

"How is this restaurant a park purpose?" asked Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman.

"Restaurants historically have been held to be,said Brenner, arguing on behalf of not only the city but the proposed restaurant concessioner, Chef Driven Market.

"'What about this restaurant?" interrupted Judge Robert S. Smith.
.
"Well.” Brenner replied, “restaurants in general . . . ”

"You say that's the end of the inquiry -  it's a restaurant, good-bye?" asked Judge Smith interrupting.

"Generally, yes, your honor,” Brenner said.

“I mean, I could envision a case where if 98 percent of a park were being turned into a food court that might be a problem," she said.


The judges also wanted the city's lawyer to commit to financial parameters in considering a potential restaurant's legal appropriateness.

"You said, ‘What the restaurant charges is not really important. If a restaurant charged $100 for appetizers — and of course entrĂ©es and everything else would be a lot more than that – [it] would be OK because?" asked Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam.

"Well, there are some park restaurants in the city that have substantially higher prices than that," said Brenner, who failed to provide even one example.

Judge Abdus-Salaam was undeterred. 

"I'm asking if a restaurant wanted to charge $100 for appetizers – and of course proportionally more for entrees and so on – it’s still a park purpose, so it’s OK even though only maybe very few people would be able to eat there?" Judge Abdus-Salaam questioned. 

"I would say that is correct, your honor," Brenner replied.

Brenner went on to argue that the prices for the proposed restaurant were not expensive.

"We're talking about by Manhattan standards,” she explained, claiming the restaurant would charge “some very reasonable prices on the low end." 

Though only paying customers could sit in the restaurant, Brenner pointed out, “There's no admission fee. There’s no requirement that you spend a certain amount of money."


Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman noted the plethora of available of restaurants and bars surrounding the park: 

"Aren't there restaurants all around the square where people are serving alcohol?”

"There are,” acknowledged the plaintiff’s attorney, Sanford I. Weisburst, “but not a few feet from the playground.” 

A children’s playground is immediately adjacent to the proposed restaurant and bar in the park. 


“Moreover,” Weisburst continued, “the fact that those restaurants exist totally undermines one of the factors this court should consider," he said dismissing the city's claim that the park needs a restaurant and qualifies as a park purpose.

One of the main points of contention is the use of the pavilion as a seasonal eatery takes away desperately needed recreational space at a time when the public's need is the greatest - spring through the fall.

The City lawyer argued that "heating lamps" could be used during the winter,  an idea that was long ago pointed out as being absurd in an open air building.

The City did not mention the interior space inside the pavilion the concessionaire plans to use year-round for a kitchen, at the expense of children, teens and seniors and the greater community.

The plaintiffs attorney pointed out that the restaurant would displace historic park uses including recreational and free speech.

"If you could pick the worse place to displace park activities this would be it, " argued Sanford I. Weisburst on behalf of the plaintiffs.

Judge Smith asked why would anyone sign,  including Chef Driven Market, a nominal 15 year license term, "when Mayor de blasio could kick him out tomorrow."

"Well I think Its a calculated risk,"  Deborah Brenner responded.

"If the State legislature was good enough to decide Bryant Park it should be good enough to decide Union Square," attorney Sandy Weisburst said about that restaurant which received state Alienation legislation approval.

"Ultimately all we're asking is the opportunity to have the State legislature decide this,"  Mr. Weisburst said.

"This is a very long standing doctrine,"  Weisburst said citing former New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Judith Kaye in the Van Courtland Park water filtration case decision. 

"It requires State legislative approval as a check and balance on local city officials and for this court to say that restaurants are per se park uses would really over turn the doctrine," he argued.

"If you could pick any place in the city , in any park to put a restaurant this is the wrong place and we should have a chance to satisfy that test," he said in closing.

The Mayor's press office Ignored several requests seeking comment. 


The Court of Appeals oral argument in this case comes at a critical time. Parkland alienation, the sale, lease or use of parkland for non-park purposes without legislative authorization, was a big concern under the Bloomberg administration.  Increasingly, municipal government took parkland from communities, using them as cash cows or as free real estate for commercial or industrial purposes in flagrant disregard of the law.

Read More:


New York Post - January 16, 2014 - By Julia Marsh

Pavilion bistro lawsuit is back on the front burner 
The Villager - January 16, 2014- By Sam Spokony



A Walk In The Park - January 13, 2014 - By Geoffrey Croft 



Monday, January 13, 2014

New York Court of Appeals To Hear Controversial Union Sq. Park Restaurant Case


Baby Yoga  - 2012 - Union Square Park Pavilion.  For more than 130 years, the park‘s pavilions have served many vital functions - a playspace for children, a bandstand, a reviewing stand, a speakers’ rostrum, and as a focal point for countless labor rallies and social protests. 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/Local Development Corporation — have attemped to sieze thousands of square feet of potential recreation and neighborhood space by turning the historic pavilion into a high-end restaurant.  The BID has been allowed to dictate public land use policy aided by an eight million dollar anonymous donation.

In doing so they have also attempted to by-pass the NY State Legislature in violation of the Public Trust Doctrine, a law that provides robust protection for parkland and dates back to the 19th century in New York, and has its roots in ancient Roman law. 

For the first time in more than twelve years The New York State Court of Appeals will consider the Public Trust Doctrine,  and will hear oral arguments on Tuesday at 2:30 and shown live on the Court's website.  

(Photos: Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates) Click on images to enlarge






























From Free Children, Cultural, First Amendment and Community Park Uses To This.  Rendering of proposed high-end bar and restaurant in the historic pavilion by Chef Driven Market, owners of Five Napkin Burger chain.   

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 there are more than 150 eating establishments, bars and markets within just a two-block radius of the park.   

Will the de Blasio administration defend a failed Bloomberg-era privatization policy.   

— Geoffrey Croft

Albany/Manhattan

On Tuesday, January 14, 2014, and for the first time since Friends of Van Cortland Park v. City of New York in 2001, the New York Court of Appeals will consider the Public Trust Doctrine, which provides that once land has been acquired for use as a municipal park, it cannot be used for any other purpose without the approval of the State Legislature.  In Union Square Park Community Coalition (USCC), et al. v. City of New York, et al., the Plaintiff community group USCC — which is responsible for the rebirth of Union Square Park after decades of neglect — opposes a Bloomberg-era plan to install a high-end, commercial restaurant in the Park's historic Pavilion at the expense of children and the greater community.    


In January 2013, the Supreme Court in Manhattan in a strongly worded opinion blocked the restaurant as a violation of the Public Trust Doctrine.  Later in the year, the Appellate Division reversed the lower court's decision with a summary, one sentence decision.  On appeal, the Court of Appeals will consider the Public Trust Doctrine that dates back to the 19th century in New York, and has its roots in ancient Roman law, and provides robust protection for parkland.  

The Court of Appeals will hear this case at a critical time. Parkland alienation, the sale, lease or use of parkland for non-park purposes without legislative authorization, is a growing concern.  Increasingly, municipal governments are taking parkland from communities, using them as cash cows or as free real estate for commercial or industrial purposes in flagrant disregard of the law.  Tuesday's Court of Appeals argument comes on the heels of two decisions in the last month - Spring Creek Park in Brooklyn and NYU -  in which NY state courts found that the City violated the Public Trust Doctrine by allowing city parkland to be used for non-park purposes without approval from the State Legislature. 

Sanford (Sandy) Weisburst from Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP will be presenting oral arguments for the plaintiffs.

 “The plan for the Pavilion and the plaza threaten the historical use of the North Plaza as a public gathering place, and excludes the public from an important part of the public park," said NY State Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, whose district includes Union Square Park and is a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

"The pavilion should be re-established to its original intent as public space.  The Parks Department should open the building for free public uses as well give other organizations the opportunity to submit proposals in a fair and open process that allows for community input.” 

July 14, 2013 - Tango in the Park.   The Union Square Partnership BID has spent millions of dollars trying to prevent the public from accessing the pavilion.  The proposed restaurant would be open from the spring through the fall when the public's use and need of the park is the greatest.

From Arts & Cultural Programming to This.  Rendering of the exterior of the proposed Chief Driven Market high-end restaurant in the historic pavilion.  The proposed commercial entity would prohibited a variety of community uses in and around the building.


"The Pavilion should returned to its historic role as a recreation site for children,” said former City Council member and plaintiff Carol Greitzer.  

“We hope the new administration will now work with us to restore the too-long-idle Pavilion to its traditional historic role.”    

Ms. Greitzer also pointed out that the adjacent playground had few play features for children with disabilities, and little for older kids. She said the pavilion should be utilized to provide expanded services for these and other groups. 

 “The Union Square Partnership/Bloomberg Administration plan to build a restaurant at the expense of the children and the community is shameful,” said Geoffrey Croft, a plaintiff and board member of The Union Square Community Coalition which brought the suit. 

“No BID should be allowed to dictate public land use policies, and especially under the influence of anonymous donations.”

"The factual record clearly establishes that the proposed pavilion restaurant does not serve proper park purposes," said Reed Super, Esq., founder of Super Law Group who have represented USCC since 2008. 

"We look forward to our day in court and to a decision that preserves the pavilion for community use and upholds the core principles of New York's Public Trust Doctrine."  

Background:  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 there are more than 150 eating establishments, bars and markets within just a two-block radius of the park.   Since 2004 the community around the park has been fighting an irresponsible plan by the Union Square Partnership,  a Business Improvement District/Local Development Corporation, and the Bloomberg administration to install a high-end restaurant depriving children and the community of desperately needed play space. 

The neighborhood has long fought to use the covered Pavilion as it was originally intended, for children and community uses.  The Pavilion should be renovated and restored to its former uses which include a sheltered, indoor recreation center that serves a variety of year-round recreation and free public uses.  

Despite vehement community opposition the plan would take away thousands of square feet of potential recreation and community space for six months of the year in order to accommodate a seasonal restaurant.  

The BID is being allowed to dictate public land use policies aided by an eight million dollar anonymous donation. It has spent millions of dollars attempting to take away and privatize much needed public space from the community - unlike Manhattan's other pavilion in Columbus Park which was handsomely restored and given back to the neighborhood for community activities.  





















Table For Two?  Eliminating the park's historic free speech and rally space. The proposed new seasonal restaurant including the outdoor seating area is expected to severely impede on the parks' historic first amendment and free space role in the Northern plaza as the city will be less inclined to issue permits for large gatherings in order to protect the commercial interests and the physical "improvements" of the restaurant. 

Allowing the Pavilion to be converted into a seasonal restaurant will dramatically alter the Park's historic first amendment and free speech uses. Union Square was designated as a National Historic Landmark in large part because of these uses which began in 1882.

Bloomberg-era free speach policy impacted the use of the pavilion.  On May Day 2012 marchers were kept away from the building (above) by galvanized steel crowd control barricades (below) manned by park workers.





















Critics also charge that allowing the Pavilion to be converted into a seasonal restaurant will dramatically alter the Park's historic first amendment and free speech uses. Union Square is a National Historic Landmark because it was the site of the first Labor Day celebration in 1882 when the pavilion in the north end first served as the platform for speakers, as it has done on countless other occasions since. 

In March 2012 the city quietly approved a new fifteen-year deal with Chef Driven Market, LLC the owner of a number of high-end restaurants to build a controversial restaurant with upscale prices in the Children's Pavilion in Union Square Park.  A previous deal collapsed in September 2011. 

In 2004, Save Union Square Park, a grass roots, community - based campaign was organized by NYC Park Advocates to advocate for the needs of the community. With the help and support of 57 community organizations, including USCC, one of the City's oldest park advocacy organizations, elected officials and a broad-based labor coalition, the campaign succeeded in defeating a controversial plan to create a year-round restaurant and greatly increased the amount of playground space, much of it recaptured from play areas lost to the previous seasonal cafe.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit have vowed to continue to try to prevent the City and the BID from taking way potential play space from children and the community. 

State Senators Liz Krueger and Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Deborah Glick and former Council Member (now Manhattan Borough President) Gale Brewer have joined the fight by filing an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief. 

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP is representing The Union Square Park Community Coalition (USCC) and several individual plaintiffs in the in the New York Court of Appeals.  The Quinn Emanuel team is led by partner Sanford (Sandy) Weisburst and includes of counsel Andrew Dunlap and associate Yelena Konanova.

Super Law Group, LLC has represented USCC in its efforts to return the Union Square Park pavilion to community use since 2008, and has twice obtained preliminary injunctions blocking the proposed restaurant.  The Super Law Group team is lead by Reed Super and includes associates Alexandra Hankovszky and Edan Rotenberg.  





Arte Institute's NY Portuguese Short Film Festival at Union Square Park Pavilion - 2012.  



Tango In The Pavilion. - 2013. The community has been fighting for the space to be used for desperately needed play space for children and other free community uses. 


Read More:


DNAinfo - January 15, 2014 - By Heather Holland


Court of Appeals to hear challenge to swanky Union Square restaurant 
New York Daily News -  January 13, 2014 -  By Corky Siemaszko  

New York Post - January 13, 2014 - By Julia Marsh 

Judges to Consider City Plan for Union Square Park Restaurants
New York Law Journal -  January 6, 2014 - By Joel Stashenko 

A Walk In The Park - January 9, 2013 - By Geoffrey Croft

A Walk In The Park - March 14, 2012  - By Geoffrey Croft

A Walk In The Park - November 17, 2011 


New York Daily News - April 30, 2008 - By Juan Gonzalez

New York Times - April 23, 2008 - By Timothy Williams

NY1 - April 28, 2008

NY1 - October 17, 2005

Faces Chants of Protesters
The New York Sun - October 26, 2004 - By Dina Temple-Raston