Up until it closed more than a year ago, Tavern on the Green was one of the hottest restaurants in town. Sure, it was an inside joke for most New Yorkers (see: Requiem for a Dream), but still, up until the end, it was one of the, and often the, top-grossing restaurant in the country. This did not save it from its fate, but it does make Donald Trump’s claim yesterday, that he will reopen the eatery and make it the top restaurant on the planet, seem much more reasonable. Just imagine the lines at a Trump Tavern.
One person who will not be lining up, however, is Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Yesterday, he told the Post at a news conference that “Tavern on the Green doesn’t exist at the moment. We have changed that location into a visitors’ center and a place for various ethnic food carts. We said we’d give that a year and see whether the public likes that.”
Now, Post real estate and food columnist Steve Cuozzo is calling out the mayor for backing down, saying he ruined the Tavern in the first place by letting it go to seed after the LeRoy family bankrupted the place. “Letting Trump revive the place from the ashes would embarrass him, as Ed Koch was when Trump saved the Wollman Rink from City Hall’s incompetence in the 1970s,” Cuozzo writes. “It would accomplish at a stroke what the city failed to do in two years of pipe-dreaming, proposal-soliciting, finally choosing a new operator — and then sabotaging him.”
Cuozzo also points out that the city’s politicians do not want to see the Crystal Room rebuilt because it may have been illegal in the first place, and, alas, that this could finally be what Trump needs to reestablish himself in New York, “a break from his distant casinos, TV celebrity and easy-money global ‘branding.'”
Yet the mayor seems to get something about the city, if not the Tavern, that Cuozzo and Trump don’t.
In the video, Bloomberg goes on to say that, “Keep in mind, when Tavern on the Green was built, there weren’t a lot of restaurants and people were afraid to walk around the city. We live in a completely different world today; we have 20,000 restaurants in lots and lots of neighborhoods. We don’t have very many restaurants in parks. We’ll have to see.”
The first point is more than fair: Do we really need Tavern on the Green anymore, and even if we brought it back, would it be successful? Not only has the city changed but so has the foodie culture of the country and the world. Our chefs, Tom Colicchio, Mario Batali, David Chang, April Bloomfield… You get the idea.
Yet whether or not anyone would actually go to the Tavern seems moot, since the mayor’s second point is actually wrong. There are more restaurants in city parks than ever before, from Shake Shack in Madison Square Park to the concessions of the High Line to the lobster pound planned for Brooklyn Bridge Park. At a time when budgets for parks continue to shrink, shouldn’t any investment be welcome?