A Manhattan state judge has issued a preliminary injunction blocking a plan to open a restaurant in the pavilion at the north end of Union Square, which is currently used for storage by the Department of Parks and Recreation.
Acting Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron said yesterday in Union Square Park Community Coalition v. Department of Parks and Recreation, 102734/12, that the plan, revealed last March, was not part of the park’s mission to serve the general public.
The plan would give Chef Driven Market LLC, a company run by the owner of the popular restaurant Five Napkin Burger, a 15-year license to operate a restaurant in the pavilion. A coalition of neighborhood groups sued to block the plan soon after it was announced, arguing that it was taking public park space and turning it over to private use.
Engoron granted the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction and denied summary judgment to the defendants, which included New York City and the restaurant. He said that the plaintiffs had made a good case that the proposed restaurant would not be a unique service for park visitors.
“[T]his Court finds that plaintiffs have demonstrated that they are likely to succeed in demonstrating that a meal in a restaurant in the Pavilion, however lovely, would be a generic experience, not a unique park experience,” he said.
Engoron also said that the proposed menu for the restaurant, with entree prices topping out at over $40, “would make broad swaths of the public think twice before entering” and would not serve a broad public.
He said that he found the plaintiffs’ alternative vision for using the pavilion, including games, movies and a resource center for seniors “highly persuasive.”
The plaintiffs were represented by Reed Super and Alexandra Hankovszky of Super Law Group and Albert Butzel of Albert K. Butzel Law Offices.
Hilary Meltzer, deputy chief of the environmental division of the Law Department said in a statement that the restaurant is a “proper park use, which we are confident does not constitute alienation of parkland” and that the city planned to appeal.