Private Restaurant Allowed in Union Square Park

, New York Law Journal


The pavilion at the north end of Union Square Park
The pavilion at the north end of Union Square Park

The court also rejected the plaintiffs' contention that the city's 15-year contract with Chef Driven Market represents a "lease" with a binding, long-term commitment that must be approved by the Legislature under the public trust doctrine rather than a "license" authorizing use of public property that may be revoked at any time by the city.

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman (See Profile) and Judges Susan Phillips Read (See Profile), Eugene Pigott Jr. (See Profile), Robert Smith (See Profile), Jenny Rivera (See Profile) and Sheila Abdus-Salaam (See Profile) joined in Graffeo's opinion.

Chef Driven Market would run the restaurant and a fast-food kiosk through its licensing agreement with the city. In return, the city would gain the right to approve the restaurants' menus and prices, to restrict the kinds of events held at the eateries and to terminate the agreement at any time.

The city would initially collect $300,000 a year through the license, increasing to $453,777 annually by the deal's final year.

The menu at the restaurant calls for breakfast items of between $1.95 to $15.95 and lunch and dinner options of between $8.95 to $33.95.

Chef Driven Market is run by the same company that owns Five Napkin Burgers.

Assistant Corporation Counsel Deborah Brenner argued for the city.

"This is a win for the community," Brenner said in a statement released by the corporation counsel's office. "The café will offer affordable, high-quality food for park-goers, including breakfast for as low as $1.95. And prices may not be increased without the city's consent."

Sanford Weisburst, a Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan attorney who represented the plaintiffs, said, "Although we are disappointed by the outcome, we appreciate the court's consideration of our arguments."

The plaintiffs included Richard Gottfried, a 43-year veteran state assemblyman whose district includes Union Square Park.

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