Save Union Square!
This just in from my friend Deanna at Alternet.org:
Union Square’s historic pavilion has long been a landmark to our most cherished traditions of free speech and free assembly. However, a new plan will “renovate” Union Square, cutting space for the farmer’s market in half and privatizing the pavilion. The plan favors a swanky celebrity-chef chardonnay restaurant and four lanes of traffic over, well, everything good about Union Square.
Please come out this Thursday, June 5th at 5pm for a rally and SURPRISE PARTY at the north side of Union Square.
RALLY AND SURPRISE PARTY:
Thursday, June 5th, 5pm
Union Square – North Side
Who: marching bands, hoola hoopers, soapbox preachers, park lovers, green growers, sun tanners, art vendors, likely a wingnut or two, and a walking tour performance by the ghosts of Union Square past. And Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Gentrifying. And YOU!
HERE’S THE SKINNY:
After letting the pavilion building fall into disrepair for over a decade, the city government was finally ready to pony up the cash to repair the building and return it to public use. Before the city could even complete their own plans, the Union Square Business Improvement District, or BID, (led by corporate chain stores such as Barnes and Noble and Whole Foods) got involved, dangling wads of extra (anonymously donated) cash, and before you know it the plans that emerged took on a decidedly unfriendly tone, particularly if you happen to be an artist selling your work, a farmer selling food, or any citizen who might want to spend time in the park without spending money.
The Union Square Partnership, led by celebrity chef Danny Meyer, plans to turn the pavilion on the north side of this park into an upscale restaurant. They are pushing around the Greenmarket and the artist vendors, cutting down 80 year old trees, ending the day-care resources, driving out local residents and making it harder and harder for us, regular new Yorkers, parents, students, residents, visitors, to enjoy our own park. This park is being privatized. It is part of a city-wide pattern. The city underfunds the park, pushes aside public funds and then brings in a BID and a few millionaire friends posing as saviors. We don’t need saving. We need transparency, a real democracy, and a public park.
We want to know who donated 7 million dollars to “buy” the pavilion and who will profit from the planned restaurant? We want to know why 17th street needs to be widened, and why the Farmers Market, artist vendors and park lovers were sold out for a fancy Chardonnay restaurant.
Union Square is a national Free Speech landmark, the pavilion was built as a stage for public assembly and democratic gathering. This is where our American conscience erupted in the songs of Paul Robeson, the shouts of Emma Goldman and the prayers of Dorothy Day. The 8-hour workday was born at Union Square and crowds surged before that reviewing stand in the tens of thousands. The first Labor Day Parade took place here in 1882 and after 9/11 we gathered here instinctively just like George Washington and the Continental Army did in 1776.
Help keep the park public – show up to the rally on Thursday June 5th at 5pm in the north side of Union Square. The Union Square Partnership (the group behind the swanky restaurant scheme) is holding their annual dinner just a block or two from the park that night. A fitting occasion to invoke the history of Union Square by speaking out for its future!