In what the city's Law Department is calling "a win for the community" around Union Square, the state's highest court has ruled that "the Parks Department can move ahead with a plan to allow a seasonal restaurant to open in the park's recently renovated northern pavilion." This is not just a victory for those who live in the neighborhood; it is a boon to any hungry traveler whose desperation for sustenance is so strong that they cannot venture out to one of the dozen other options that are literally within eyeshot of the food desert that is the north end of the square. This will be especially welcome [...]
Beyond the drama of the big numbers, here's a helpful explanation of what happened to the W Union Square Hotel, which had a fun and dramatic foreclosure auction yesterday. (Union Square! Such carnage, all around!) "Basically, Dubai World (or its investment arm, Istithmar) paid $282 million in total for the hotel, and took out a $115 million mortgage. Istithmar put down $50 million of its own money, and borrowed the rest in what's known as a 'mezzanine' transaction: $117 million of high-yielding debt which isn't secured against the property…. Lots of people are extremely worried about commercial real estate at the moment, saying that it's the next shoe [...]
In an unwelcome reminder that we have made our entrance into the arena of the worst part of the year, they have started to assemble the tents down in Union Square for the annual Holiday Market, which opens this Friday. There is no longer any way to pretend that it's not happening; we are now within the Holiday Zone. There are no prayers or entreaties that can forestall this grim acknowledgment. The best one can do is accelerate one's Holiday Drinking regimen and hope that one emerges bleary-eyed after New Year's with as incomplete a memory of this horrible span as possible. May God have mercy on our souls.
Apparently this is some kind of program that has been in the test stage for years, but because nothing registers until it happens to me personally, I am only now waking up to the outrage that is the new "pedestrian countdown signal" on our city's traffic lights, some of which just appeared on 14th Street around Union Square this weekend. You're probably familiar with the signals, which count down the number of seconds remaining before the light changes, from trips to Europe or such backwater American burgs as Philadelphia, but it is gravely disappointing to see them here in my New York. I mean, it was bad enough [...]
"Very little happens in Union Square that escapes the notice of a man known as Normal Bob Smith, a longtime park fixture who chronicles its characters on the 'Amazing Strangers' portion of his Web site. One of his main genres of park characters is the peeper. Normal Bob, whose given name is Bob Hain, says peepers are a constant presence in the south section of the park, where they prey on women wearing skirts who sit on the sets of steps along 14th Street."
Union Square's sad transformation into Times Square proceeds apace: Construction to turn the former Zen Palate space into a TGI Friday's is in full swing, while uptown barbecue chain Brother Jimmy's has already opened and is happy offering sustenance to suit-wearing douchebags for whom the cuisine of Heartland Brewery is a bit too "ethnic" or "challenging." If you stand on the corner of 16th and Union Square East, you will find yourself victimized by the cruel tyranny of choice: Which of the two equidistant glazed dough providers wares will pad your colon, Tim Horton's or Dunkin Donuts?
It's rare that one looks at an empty building in one's neighborhood and expresses the fervent desire that it become a bank, but news that the Riese Organization plans to turn the vacant shell that was Union Square's Zen Palate into a TGI Friday's engenders exactly that kind of yearning deep in the collective breast of everyone who resides on that sceptered intersection. It's not bad enough that we're about to be inundated with Nordstrom's cut-rate shmattes; we should also suffer from the mutated abomination that is BBQ Pork Ravioli Bites? It makes one nostalgic for the inducement to suicide that was Bradlee's.