Court Puts Brakes On Posh Park Eatery

(Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates)

(Geoffrey Croft/NYC Park Advocates)

This judge can really dish it out.

New York State Supreme Court Justice Arthur F. Engoron has issued a preliminary injunction to stop the Union Square Partnership/Bloomberg Administration’s plan for a swanky (re: expensive) new restaurant in the Union Square Park Pavilion.

Justice Engoron wrote in the official decision that the “plaintiffs have proved beyond a peradventure of a doubt that a restaurant is not necessary to insure that park participants do not go hungry or thirsty.”

Well put, since the park’s two-block radius is already polluted with over 150 eating establishments, bars and markets—the greatest (most excessive) concentration of restaurants in the entire city. Justice Engoron left no holes in explaining his written decision:

“All things considered, including the small size and large crowds of Union Square Park; the commercial character of the encircling neighborhood; the plethora of nearby restaurants of every description just beyond its perimeter; the prominence and importance of the Pavilion; the restricted views therein; and the operating hours and prices to be charged by the proposed restaurant, and based on the record at this stage of the litigation, this Court finds that plaintiffs likely will succeed in proving that the proposed restaurant would be ‘in’ the park, but not ‘of’ the park, would be a ‘park restaurant’ in name only, and would not serve a ‘park purpose.’”

The suit was filed on May 18, 2012, but according to N.Y.C. Parks Advocate and one of multiple suit plaintiffs, Geoffrey Croft, “this battle has been going on since the plan came out in 2004.”

Following this victory, the city can choose to appeal, he said, calling such a decision “irresponsible.” Instead of aggregating the Pavilion, historically wrought with recreational uses, into the expanse of commercially exploited N.Y.C. tourist destinations, Mr. Croft hopes the city will look to Columbus Park. Inside the central Chinatown public space, senior citizens can be found practicing morning tai chi, children can be heard playing tag and hip adults can be seen taking art classes. With loving restoration, this area has already become something of a haven for residents who generally feel imprisoned by concrete and commercials.

As for the Union Square Park Pavilion, “it’s a beautiful space and the community wanted it to be used for children’s purposes—and for community purposes,” said Mr. Croft. “We strongly hope the city accepts this decision instead of wasting the resources of a non-profit.”

We can call the passing of this injunction a comely success for the community residents opposing Big Bloomberg.

Update 1/10: The city maintains it will prevail in the case. “The restaurant in Union Square is a proper park use, which we are confident does not constitute alienation of parkland,” Hilary Meltzer, Deputy Chief, Environmental Law Division, said in a statement. “We believe the decision is incorrect, and we plan to appeal once the order is entered.”