By Nicole Breskin
UNION SQUARE — The city is moving ahead with plans to build a 1,584-square-foot café in a historic pavilion in Union Square, opening the door to yet another a vehement legal battle by locals determined to prevent it.
The Department of Parks and Recreation issued a request for proposal Tuesday looking for contractors to run the “operations and maintenance of a seasonal café” within the almost 80-year-old pavilion that lies at the northern end of Union Square.
The Parks Dept. said they are seeking leases for a 15-year term and proposals must be from a food service that will operate the café from May 1 to Oct. 31. A year-round kiosk can also be opened just due west of the pavilion, according to the RFP.
The department said that applicants would get special consideration if they promised to incorporate the Union Square Greenmarket’s produce into proposed menus while keeping food and service “high quality, yet affordable.” Alcohol can be served in the café, the request for proposals said.
The latest step in the restaurant's three-year planning process sets the stage for another round of legal wrangling between the city and opponents who went to court in 2008 in hopes of blocking the project.
A set of local opponents, including the Union Square Community Coalition and members of the NYC Park Advocates, tried to block the Parks Department from renting out the space on the grounds that the area needed more room for playgrounds and additional green space in the park, not more commerce.
There are only two playgrounds but more than 100 restaurants within Union Square’s Community Board 5 district, according to the NYC Park Advocates.
Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Jane Solomon ruled in favor of the city in March 2009, but said the residents could raise the issue again when plans for the restaurant were finalized.
Opponents said at the time that they were prepared to return to court when the proposal was finalized with an RFP.
The pavilion is part of the North End Project that involves a $22 million park facelift and was begun in May 2008 by city officials and the Union Square Partnership, which runs the park.
Proposals are due to the city on July 15 at 3 p.m.