Back in May news came down the line that the Parks Department had, after many years of fighting and much speculation, finally found a restaurant tenant for the pavilion on the North side of Union Square. Whether you liked the idea or not (and many neighbors did not) it finally seemed that this thing was happening, with former TriBeCa Grill chef Don Pintabona running the kitchen in the forthcoming City Farm Cafe. Well, forget about that. Geoffrey Croft at A Walk in the Park today reports, and the Parks Department confirms to us, that O-V Hospitality, which was going to run City Farm Cafe, has pulled out of the deal.
Despite public support for the pavilion to revert to recreational use and not another restaurant, Parks spokesperson Vickie Karp says that "Parks is currently reviewing other high-quality proposals submitted and will select a new operator in the very near future."
The city wants the space to go to a restaurateur because it will produce a tremendous amount of income for it in a poor economy. For example, before it dropped out, O-V had agreed to pay the city a minimum of $8.6 million dollars over the life of the 15-year deal. "License fees were supposed to start at a minimum of $400,000 a year or 18 percent of gross revenues, whichever is greater, and escalate by 5% each year of the 15-year license term. The concessionaire had also committed to a minimum capital investment of over $1.1 million to build the seasonal restaurant."
Meanwhile critics continue to point out that the new restaurant would be coming to an area that is already rich in fine dining and quite poor in children's playgrounds. In CB 5 there are only two playgrounds but more than 150 eating establishments, bars and markets within a two-block radius of the park. In the past the pavilion had been used as an indoor recreation center for the public, and no matter what happens, it will still be used as a community center during the off-season.