UNION SQUARE — The New York-based restaurant group run by celebrity Chef Don Pintabona has pulled out of plans to open a restaurant in the Union Square Pavilion.
The city's Parks Department confirmed Wednesday that Pintabona's O-V Hospitality Group called off its plans to open a restaurant called City Farm Café on the park's north end in 2012.
Pintabona, who gained notoriety as the chef at Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Grill and also for providing hot meals to relief workers after the 9/11 attacks, called the opportunity to open a restaurant in Union Square “a dream come true,” according to a statement announcing the venture back in May.
For area residents, that dream was more like a nightmare.
The plan stoked controversy among elected officials and community groups, which bemoaned the loss of park space in an area already low on recreational areas.
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who campaigned against the restaurant plan, said the withdrawal of O-V Hospitality Group offered the city an opportunity to make sure area remains accessible to the community.
“Now that the city’s ill-conceived deal to turn over the Union Square Pavilion to a private concessionaire has fallen through, I urge the administration to reconsider their plans and return the pavilion to full-time public and community uses,” Stringer said in a statement.
Despite the opposition, the Parks Department said it plans to begin reviewing other “high-quality proposals” from operators who could pick up where Pintabona left off.
The Union Square Community Coalition has been a key player in the fight against a Union Square Pavilion restaurant, said Geoffrey Croft, a coalition board member and the president of NYC Park Advocates.
City Farm Café was originally supposed to be open on a seasonal basis, from May to October, leaving the space available for public use during the winter and early spring months.
The coalition also argues that the city should be required to get approval for the project from the state Legislature, because it is authorizing the use of a public park for commercial purposes.
Parks Department spokeswoman Vickie Karp said that the restaurant project is not a private venture and that portions of the income from any restaurant there would go the city's general fund.
According to an earlier press release, the restaurant would have been required to pay license fees starting at a minimum of $400,000 or 18 percent of gross revenue, whichever was greater. Those fees would have then have escalated by 5 percent each year throughout the 15-year license term. City Farm Café also agreed to make a capital investment of more than $1.1 million.
The restaurant was originally intended to feature a “playful and imaginative design” that incorporated historic elements of Union Square and green technologies, the earlier press release stated.
Chef Don Pintabona did not immediately return a call requesting comment.