The redesigning of Union Square Park has been ongoing since the 1980s. The current renovations, known as the North End project, began in the Spring of 2008 and are expected to be completed by the Fall of 2009.
The North End project will provide an expanded playground which will be three times the size of the existing facilities, a new north plaza, additional landscaping with Japanese Pagoda trees, enhanced lighting, and new restroom facilities. The area where the greenmarket currently is located will be even greener: trees will be planted around the northern gateway plaza, the plaza will be resurfaced, and electrical and plumbing infrastructure will be put in place to provide additional services to the greenmarket vendors.
The City’s plan also calls for the renovation of the Pavilion that formerly housed the seasonal restaurant, Luna Park. As part of the redesign, the old building will be completely overhauled. The new space will be used by the Parks Department for office and park maintenance space. A request for proposals (RFP) will be issued for a restaurant concessionaire to use the remaining space for the spring and summer of the year and the pavilion will be open to the public in the winter months.
The Union Square Community Coalition, a group made up of several civic groups, filed a lawsuit in the Spring of 2008 to stop the renovation of the pavilion believing that space is better used for cultural and community space than as a for-profit restaurant business. Hearings on the case began in December of 2008 and despite an initial stop-work order issued, construction on other aspects of the redesign continues. On March 30, 2009, the lawsuit was dismissed allowing for the construction of the pavilion for restaurant space to proceed. The judge ruled that use of the space for a restaurant was consistent with how space has been historically used.
The park’s redesign will cost approximately $20 million. The City will pay about $12 million and the Union Square Partnership, a nonprofit organization comprised of a local development corporation and New York City’s first BID, will pay the remainder of the costs, mostly from privately-generated funds. An anonymous source has already contributed $5 million for the park. Some park advocates and elected leaders have suggested that because the donor is anonymous, it creates the appearance that the donor is interested in securing the license for the concession.
In March 2009, the North End project was halfway completed.