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Union Square Park

City Selects New Operator For Seasonal Cafe In Union Square Park


Tuesday, May 17, 2011
No. 34
http://www.nyc.gov/parks

Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe today announced the selection of the City Farm Café as the new operator of a seasonal café in Union Square Park, managed by O-V Hospitality Group, LLC (“O-V”), a New York-based restaurant management firm.

From May through October, anticipated to begin in 2012, this seasonal café will provide park users with a casual and affordable food service in the newly restored historic Pavilion in Union Square Park, part of a long tradition of unique and diverse food services in City parks. In keeping with Union Square Park’s history as the birthplace of the City’s first Greenmarket and with the Parks Department’s initiative to provide varied and healthy food options in City parks, City Farm Café’s menu will feature seasonal produce and other food products from the Union Square Greenmarket.

In the off-season, the Pavilion will be used for a range of educational and recreational activities open to the public from November through April. The Parks Department plans to sponsor childrens’ programs, fitness programs, and films, and the Greenmarket plans to organize public education programs to encourage healthy eating habits.

“City Farm Café submitted an inventive proposal for a seasonal café that will take full advantage of the locally grown and produced fresh food sold at the Union Square Greenmarket,” said Commissioner Benepe. “This seasonal café will bring food service back to Union Square Park following the successful run of the Luna Café that was in the park from 1994 to 2007, part of a 150-year-old tradition of having restaurants and food concessions in parks. It will also be a welcome addition to the park’s restored north end, a $20 million project that included the rehabilitation of the north and west plazas, the creation of a 15,000-square-foot playground for all ages and abilities, the restoration of the Pavilion, the construction of new public restrooms, historic lighting matched to existing lighting found throughout the park, new landscaping and more than 50 trees. I am grateful to the Union Square Partnership for its significant help in furthering these enhancements.”

“It’s a dream come true for a chef to operate a restaurant steps away from the Union Square Greenmarket,” said Chef Don Pintabona, one of the managing partners of O-V. “I am very excited about planning menus around all the wonderful produce that is in season at the Greenmarket.”

Pintabona was the opening chef at Robert DeNiro’s Tribeca Grill and is the author of The Tribeca Grill Cookbook and The Shared Table. Chef Pintabona has been closely involved with dozens of charitable organizations including the We are Family Foundation, Share Our Strength, and City Harvest. Pintabona spearheaded the “Operation Chefs with Spirit” campaign that fed over 600,000 hot meals to the relief workers at the World Trade Center site after the 9/11 attacks. Newsweek Magazine featured Pintabona as one of New York City’s pivotal figures during the relief efforts.

Partnering with Pintabona is Giorgio Kolaj, who with Chef Pintabona operates Valentino’s on the Green, a new NYC park concession, in Bayside, Queens with plans to build an urban farm at the site that will provide food for the restaurant and the Bayside community. Giorgio and his brother Paul also own and operate the successful Famous Famiglia Pizzeria restaurant chain.

Chris Smith of CMS Architecture and Design has proposed a playful and imaginative design that complements many of the elements of the North End Project, particularly the recent rehabilitation of the Pavilion, with a clear eye toward sustainability. The design for the café will integrate historic elements of Union Square with contemporary green and sustainable technologies, including a new state-of-the-art kitchen. The interior décor will include a large communal table and a full-service wine bar. A new outdoor dining area on the north plaza will include scrim awnings, and the lighting design will cast a warm and inviting glow during evening hours.

Additionally, a new stand-alone food kiosk to the west of the Pavilion proposed to be constructed using reclaimed materials. The kiosk, which will need to be reviewed and approved by the Public Design Commission, replaces a former newsstand that operated year-round in that location and will provide food and beverage items to park users on-the-go year-round.

“I am so excited to be working in Union Square Park,” said Chris Smith of CMS Architecture and Design. “It’s not only one of the city’s great public spaces; it’s my neighborhood park. I live and work in the area and my children use the playground.”

City Farm Café has committed to a minimum capital investment of over $1.1 million. License fees for this contract will start at a minimum of $400,000 a year and escalate by 5% each year of the 15-year license term. The minimum fees are versus 18% of gross revenue, whichever is greater. As with most food concessions in parks, the fees paid to the City will go to the General Fund to pay for basic city services. The seasonal café anticipates opening in the Spring of 2012, pending approvals from the Public Design Commission and the Franchise and Concession Review Committee (FCRC).

Year-Round Community Programming

GrowNYC’s Greenmarket program, which has been a fixture in the north plaza of Union Square Park since 1976, will develop a relationship with City Farm Café to provide public activities and education at the Pavilion. During the offseason, Greenmarket will use the Pavilion as a community space to enhance its public education programs such as cooking classes, schools tours, children’s book readings, farmer meet and greets, and other activities – all with an emphasis on encouraging healthy eating habits and promoting regional agriculture. City Farm Café will complement the Greenmarket’s offseason community programming with movie nights, readings, musical performances, urban gardening classes, and healthy eating and cooking classes while operating.

“The chefs at the City Farm Café will be blessed with the freshest, healthiest, best tasting ingredients at their doorstep,” said Marcel Van Ooyen, GrowNYC Executive Director. “We look forward to their joining the Greenmarket family of chefs who are dedicated to supporting small family farms and regional agriculture by buying and preparing the bounty our farmers bring to the city every day.”

These efforts will build on the successful public-private partnership with the Union Square Partnership, which invests over $750,000 annually to support the maintenance, beautification and programming in the park. USP’s widely-attended annual calendar of events includes Summer in the Square, a 9-week series with a running club and yoga and low-impact cardio classes, children’s entertainment, dance, and musical performances, as well as park volunteer clean-up days, and its largest event of the year, Harvest in the Square, which raises vital funds for Union Square Parks.

“The Union Square Partnership has served as the Union Square community for over 30 years and we are proud of our work, especially the support we provide for Union Square Park through our successful public-private partnership with the City’s Parks Department,” said Executive Director Jennifer Falk. “We could not be more pleased with the success to date of the North End Project, and we look forward to working with our new partners at City Farm Café to ensure that this amenity represents the very best that Union Square has to offer.”

Since it opened in 1839, Union Square Park has served as a stage for countless community events and festivals, including the first Labor Day parade in 1882, workers' rallies in the 1930s, and the first Earth Day celebration in 1970.

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