The Real Deal New York

Activists prank Union Square Partnership over pavilion restaurant 

July 03, 2008 03:58PM
By Jane C. Timm

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As part of a long-running campaign to stop the city from turning the Union Square Pavilion into a year-round restaurant, activists released a fake press release yesterday announcing that the Union Square Partnership had abandoned the plan.

“We made a mistake,” the fake release quoted Union Square Partnership Executive Director Jennifer Falk as saying. “[We didn't] consider its potential as a community space, its historical significance at the center of so many of America’s social movements, or its present value as one of the last areas for free assembly in New York City.” 

Activists-turned-pranksters created an imitation Web site, http://www.unionsquarepartnership.org/, which mimicked the partnership’s real home page, http://unionsquarenyc.org/. The fine print on the phony Web site, however, encourages citizens to recite the First Amendment often and participate in protests. The activists left their calling card in the hyperlinks, all of which lead to an online petition against the deal and the personal Web site of Reverend Billy, who leads an activist group called the Church of Stop Shopping.

“Why did we even consider jeopardizing this priceless legacy through privatization?” The sham site reads. “It won’t ever happen again. We’re sorry.”

The proposed restaurant is part of the park’s $21 million renovation,
which is improving its comfort stations, playground and historic
pavilion.

A Business Improvement District spokesman told the Villager that “it’s unfortunate that the Union Square BID name was pirated to spread irresponsible and fraudulent misinformation about the north-end renovation project. U.S.P. is working to correct the abuse of technology and continues to work with its partners at the Department of Parks to fully complete the renovation.”
 
The fake release also announced that the Union Square Partnership “business improvement district” would re-organize as the “community improvement district,” with outspoken park preservation activists Geoffrey Croft and Jack Taylor as board members. It also said that it told Revered Billy, “We’ve betrayed the public.”

The activists also threw a “Push Back Picnic” yesterday, parading around the park in protest of the plans. Activists carried trees around the park with petitions to stop the development, chanting “Union Square. Not for Sale,” according to the Washington Square Park Web blog.

The Partnership’s plan to lease out the 78-year-old pavilion is being fought out in the courts. In May, a State Supreme Court judge issued a “preliminary injunction” pending activist’ law suits. The Union Square Partnership and the city Parks Department were sued by the Union Square Community Coalition.

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