A panel of New York State appellate judges have unanimously rejected a lawsuit brought by park advocates to prevent the City from turning the historic Union Square Park Pavilion into an upscale seasonal restaurant. "The seasonal restaurant and holiday market concessions at issue do not violate the public trust doctrine," the judges wrote.
The Union Square Community Coalition, which filed the suit against the City, achieved a victory in January when Justice Arthur Engoron granted a preliminary injunction, which stopped the City from carrying out the restaurant plans, as well as the annual holiday market that covers the southern area of the park for several weeks in November and December. Justice Engoron wrote:
…On all the available evidence, plaintiffs’ claim that defendants ‘are attempting to create a high-end destination restaurant, as opposed to a public amenity that will serve ordinary park visitors,’ rings true. The Pavilion restaurant’s proposed prices would make broad swaths of the public think twice before entering.
Under the plan proposed by Chef Driven Market, LLC, dinner entrées would cost $13.95 to $ 33.95, brunch and breakfast would be up to $19.95 and $15.95 respectively. Similar lawsuits filed to stop the development have failed.
"Seasonal amenities such as outdoor cafés and bazaars enhance the park experience for City residents and visitors alike,” Corporation Counsel Michael Cardozo said in a statement lauding the appellate court decision.
Geoffrey Croft of NYC Park Advocates, who sits on the board of the group who filed the suit, called the decision "disappointing but expected, based on the types of questions and comments some of the judges made at the hearing. Judging by the length and lack of information contained in the ruling, it seems clear they put little effort into this." The ruling itself is in fact under 200 words.
"The Bloomberg administration and Union Square Partnership should be ashamed of themselves for trying to take away desperately needed play space in that community," Croft added. "It speaks volumes about priorities. It's disgraceful that the needs of the community and especially children—not to mention park policy—are allowed to be dictated by a BID."
Jennifer Falk, the executive director of the Union Square Partnership, said in a statement, "This terrific new amenity will enliven the park, making it even more inviting and safer for all visitors. We look forward to welcoming everyone to Union Square Park's new concession next spring."
The Union Square Community Coalition has 30 days to appeal the decision, and the group is still deciding whether to exercise that option.