City Redesigns Union Square Redesign

It is taking almost a year to remove two apparently minor elements of the plan to renovate the north end of Union Square.

Back in May, the Art Commission approved the design, which was backed by the local business improvement district, that would enlarge the playground and institutionalize a seasonal restaurant there, but only if the architects make two changes: eliminate a row of trees north of the pavilion and the balconies that would have increased the restaurant’s seating space.

A spokesman for the Department of Parks and Recreation, Warner Johnston, said that the department would present a revised plan to the Art Commission next spring, and construction would begin shortly afterward. He said removing the two elements from the design was the main reason for the delay.

“Things like this take time,” he said. “We have to work with our community partners and we are proud of how we have involved the community in the planning process.”

The long, tortured redesign process dates back many years, and has run into opposition from residents and local officials who object to privatizing parkland for the sake of a restaurant. (The current one is a temporary arrangement.) Geoffrey Croft, president and founder of NYC Park Advocates, said the latest delay makes no sense.

“It should have taken a couple of hours,” he said of the design changes. “The community has been fighting for a playground for 10 years, so it is irresponsible that this has been allowed to be delayed for so long.”

- Matthew Schuerman