Monday, December 04, 2006

Food Vendors Decline to Submit Proposals for Morningside Cafe

Columbia Spectator
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Food Vendors Decline to Submit Proposals for Morningside Cafe
Parks Department Unsuccessfully Sought Bids for 112th St. Site
By Anna Phillips
Issue date: 12/4/06 Section: News

Several years after an outdoor cafe in Morningside Park closed because of financial struggles, the New York City Parks and Recreation Department again tried to resurrect the project. But, weeks after the deadline, the department has yet to receive any proposals, leaving the project's fate in question.The department issued a request for proposals in September for a cafe on the corner of Morningside Park at 112th Street and Morningside Avenue. According to the request, the proposed cafe's site would be atop the park house, an elevated plaza that overlooks the park's athletic fields and has restrooms on the lower level.The request stated that the concession license would have a 12-year limit and that the department "anticipates a substantial investment from the concessionaire" that would likely involve renovations to make the facility suitable for a restaurant business."It was just too much of an investment for them [potential concessionaires]," said Brad Taylor, the president of the Friends of Morningside Park. Taylor wondered whether the project's scope may have been too ambitious.Unwilling to give up entirely, the Friends of Morningside Park are looking for alternatives to what the request for proposals called a "high quality" cafe. Rather than waiting for proposals from restaurant owners, they're considering finding a food vendor to sell hot dogs and milk shakes during the summer months."It's such an interesting plaza there. There are many uses that could be put in there," Taylor said. "With the new Barnard dorm down there, I think it'd be a real interest to the Columbia community."Community Board 9 Chair Jordi Reyes-Montblanc said he had not received much of a response from community members regarding a cafe."I have not received any comments either in favor or against from the community, and that's something strange," he said.According to Carolyn Kent, the cochair of CB9's Parks and Landmarks Committee, members "were all very excited about the first arrival [the old restaurant] and sorry that it didn't work out. And it wasn't due to lack of quality, it was just a lack of customers," she said. "I don't know what could come in there that could be done reasonably. To me, it looks like kind of an iffy location." According to Taylor, Danny Meyer, a New York restauranteur who founded the Union Square Hospitality Group and opened the Union Square Cafe in 1985, looked at the Morningside Park location but found it did not have enough space for food preparation and storage."Just the fact that he [Meyer] was looking at it is a good sign for Morningside's profile," Taylor said. "I think it's still a little early."The Parks and Recreation Department did not return calls for comment.

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