Monday, December 3, 2012

Food Fight In Soho's Petrosino Square

The newly renovated Petrosino Square which the community fought for years to improve. The neighborhood is opposed to the Parks Department proposal to install a food cart in the tiny park located on Lafayette Street.  (Photos: Georgette Fleischer for Friends of Petrosino Square)


By Geoffrey Croft

Another park concession commercialization fight is brewing, this time in Soho.

A plan to install a food cart in Petrosino Square, a tiny park located on Lafayette St. was unveiled recently before Community Board 2. 

The Parks Department selected Canelé by Céline an Upper East Side-based baker earlier this year with a plan to set up a food cart in spring 2013. 

A local park group is vowing to stop the plan and say a concession is not wanted in the recently renovated park. They also point out the park bounds Little Italy,  the Bowery, Chinatown and SoHo and has an abundance of food options. 

The group feels they were blindsided by the news because in May they informed the community board of their strong objection to the concession.

"There was no community outreach performed for this last-minute addition to the agenda so we only learned of it after CB2’s Parks/Waterfront Committee had met with the applicant and the Parks Department,"  Friends of Petrosino Square said in a statement.  

"Within a day, ten members of the community had written to CB2 in utter distress at the prospect of giving up our tiny heavily used park, in a park-starved neighborhood, whose expansion and renovation was completed only a year ago, to yet another foodcart. We anticipate that many more members of the public will be concerned once they learn of the proposal. 

While we understand that the food cart would be profitable for Ms. Legros and the Parks Department, we question whether it is desirable to add "pre-packaged French pastries" to an area whose surrounds include beloved long-standing establishments like Eileen's Special Cheesecake, Ceci Cela Patisserie, and Balthazar Boulangerie.  We also question whether the proposal is justifiable in the face of heart-felt community opposition to adding any more food service to this extremely over-saturated area. Petrosino Park is the only open public space in our neighborhood that remains free of commerce. We would love to keep it that way."

The Parks Department says it has not yet made a determination.

"Earlier this year, we issued a Request for Proposals for specialty food carts at parks throughout the city including at Petrosino Square," the Parks Department said in a statement.  

"We were pleased to receive a proposal from a French pastry cart, Canele by Celine.  We recently presented this proposal to Community Board 2 to address any questions or concerns. We anticipate further discussion with the Community Board and members of the community before deciding on whether to issue a permit for a specialty cart at this location.

The group vowed it would go to court to stop the plan if necessary.

The parkland has gotten a bump in visitors recently due to a number of public art installations including Carole Feuerman's scupture, Survival of Serena,  and The Glass Sea by Harlem artist Jessica Feldman.  

The Park is named after a hero police officer - Lieutenant Joseph Petrosino (1860-1909) - who was killed in the line of duty, the only New York police officer who had died in the line of duty outside the United States.

Critics have called the Mayor's frequent use parkland to generate revenue for the city's general fund, a "cash cow" and "land grab."

Ninety-one percent of all concession revenue generated from city agencies is derived from the Parks Department according to the Comptroller.

For more than eight years the community around Union Square Park has fought the Bloomberg administration and the Union Square Partnership BID to prevent them from installing a restaurant in Union Square Park.  
Recently a number of high profile park food cart concessions have quietly gone out of business after being open for a short period of time including Cake & Shake and PullCart. 

Read More:

Food Fight Over French Pastry Cart Seeking to Set Up in SoHo
DNAinfo - December 3, 2012 -  By Andrea Swalec 


  1. Thank you for your article. Let's hope the Parks Department and Celine Legros come to their senses and recognize how inappropriate this proposal is. Parkland in our neighborhood is too scarce to sell out; it belongs to the public.

  2. The Parks Department failed to notify the community about the RFP for this proposed concession in Petrosino Park. Yet former Commissioner Adrian Benepe reportedly had committed to doing so. How could this oversight have happened?

  3. Thus dry bit of triangle barely qualifies as a 'park' and putting more machinery in only makes it appear more like pavement, the rest of the Soho streetscape (not landscape). There is a HUGE area paved that should be dug up and incorporated into the park, but is used now by skateboarders, and play-golfers (yes!). This hardscrabble bit makes it look as if the city does not think much of Petrosino, and this triangle does not honor him particularly. Consider the beautiful plantings in tiny triangles all around: at the end of Broome towards Sixth Ave; along Seventh Ave near Abingdon Square, Jefferson Market, in Tribeca. Soho cold really use more green trees, flowers, and this does not satisfy.

  4. As a resident of Soho,I often walk along the park to enjoy the lack of commercial activity in a neighborhood that is overwhelmed with pedestrians and restaurants with sidewalk service. I don't think we need to start having food carts in the small park space that we have!