After more than two years of protests and a long, drawn-out lawsuit, a State Supreme Court judge has ruled that the city can go ahead with converting a large part of the 80-year-old Pavilion in Union Square park into a restaurant. Up until a couple years ago, a seasonal restaurant and bar had operated in part of the Pavilion; the city's new plan—part of a sweeping $14 million rehabilitation of Union Square—would involve leasing a larger area of the Pavilion to a year-round restaurateur.
Opponents like Union Square Community Coalition have objected to what they see as the privatization of park space in a neighborhood with an abundance of restaurants. Yesterday Justice Jane Solomon ruled that the operation of an eating establishment in the park is consistent with public purposes. She also decided that it makes sense to put a restaurant concession in the pavilion because the area outside the pavilion is being converted into an expanded playground. But Solomon did rule that opponents could return to court once the final plans for the restaurant were announced.
In a statement, Geoffrey Croft at NYC Park Advocates told us the community coalition is planning to do just that: "I'm disappointed that the Mayor and Union Square Partnership will now force a small non-profit to spend even more time and money addressing the needs of the community, especially its children. They should be ashamed of themselves." Jennifer Falk, executive director of the Union Square Partnership, said in her statement [pdf], "We are gratified by the court's decision. Just this month, the North End Project reached a major milestone at 50 percent completion... We can't wait for the west plaza to be completed in the next few weeks just in time for the Greenmarket's busiest season of the year, and for the playground to open later this summer."