Yesterday, the new visitor center opened at the Tavern on the Green site, where the restaurant's brazenly gaudy Crystal Room once sat. The infamously tacky and mediocre tourist trap was to have been taken over by Dean Poll, who runs the Central Park Boathouse, but after negotiations with the restaurant's union went nowhere, Poll walked away, and the restaurant has been abandoned since January. In August, the city tore down the Crystal Room, and starting today the area's being used "temporarily" to sell T-shirts and edibles from upscale food trucks. And the local community board is fuming.
Diners Journal notes that the vendors will pay the city from $45,000 to $100,000 over two years, for a total of $576,000, about $2 million less than what the city would have received under the former licensing agreement with the LeRoy family, which ran the old Tavern. The blog A Walk In The Park has a great, in-depth report on the changes. One source says that Mayor Michael Bloomberg personally toured the site and made the call to tear down the Crystal Room. And a local community board member is excoriating the Parks Department for letting Tavern rot:
Normally we don't shout, but every single person on the community board was shouting at the Parks Department, because we were left out of the equation. Didn't [Parks Commissioner] Adrian [Benepe] go on record saying he was going to bring things to community boards before they acted? Well, he didn't. We were blindsided. He sent two young people [to a previous meeting] who had to be like 19 and 20 years old. They couldn't answer a single question; they had no idea what was going there. They had no idea—it was laughable.
[Benepe] said he was going to vet things at the community board level before they made important decisions. They just go right ahead storm trooping through Central Park and other parks. It’s really disgraceful. Honesty isn't one of their strong suits.
The winning vendors are Ladle of Love, which sells soup; the Rickshaw Dumpling Truck; Pera (Turkish tacos, three for $8); and a Van Leeuwen truck selling ice cream. The Times reports that both Ladle of Love and Pera are applying for full liquor licenses, and Rickshaw is applying for a beer and wine license. And that's another thing that has some community board members furious.
The new set-up also features a 12-foot-by-3-foot three-dimensional model of Central Park created in the 1980s, and two new public restrooms. Douglas Blonsky, who heads up the Central Park Conservancy, says, "People felt uncomfortable going into Tavern to use the old restrooms, and the new facilities will be an important amenity." We find that hilarious, because one of the only good things about Tavern was the well-maintained bathroom, and we always felt quite comfortable using it!