Wollman… er Trump Rink… opens this weekend.

Serendipity at Trump/Wolmann Rink

Serendipity at Trump/Wolmann Rink

Ice skating season opens this weekend in Central Park at… umm… well, we’re not really sure what to call it anymore. The famous rink, featured in the movie Serendipity, which was originally built with money given to the city by philanthropist Kate Wollman, used to be called Wollman Rink. If you Google, Wollman Rink, almost everything on the internet refers to it by this name… except the rink itself. It is now calling itself Trump Rink. True, Mr. Trump restored the rink in 1986 after it had been closed for several years. Trump then operated the rink, then didn’t, then came resumed operations in 2001. Since that time, the Trump Organization has spent a significant amount of money in capital improvements on the rink. Nobody could say that he hasn’t been a huge supporter and friend of the rink and the park. Our company has personally made it a point in the past to thank The Trump Organization for its many contributions. But what about Kate Wollman’s contributions? The Trump name now appears on the rink’s website (wollmanrinkskating.com), Facebook account, and Twitter profile and we can’t seem to figure out what prompted the change. We reached out to the Central Park Conservancy and they didn’t seem to know the rink had been “renamed.” When we called the rink, they informed us that it has been called Trump Rink for the past two years. Yeah… it hasn’t. While Mr. Trump certainly has the right to receive credit for his philanthropy, both philanthropists really should receive credit.

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Tavern on the Green Heckling Begins

Tavern on the Green render

A rendering of the soon to be renovated Tavern on the Green.

Shortly after Tavern on the Green opened as a gift shop in 2010, I walked in to take a look at the fancy touch screen maps and the twenty dollar t-shirts that proudly proclaimed “Tavern on the Green: Since 1934,” and was greeted to a fairly typical New York scene. A woman who lived on the Upper West Side had wandered in to inquire about dinner reservations for Thanksgiving. The Conservancy staff politely informed her that Tavern on the Green was now a gift shop but she scoffed at the and told them they didn’t know what they were talking about. She dropped a few names, probably Danny Meyers, Donald Trump, and a few others and declared that they’d told her things would be running normally again shortly. She stormed out refusing to acknowledge the building’s transformation and declaring that she would make a reservation over the phone.

Even in its absence, everyone seems to feel a certain sense of ownership of Tavern on the Green and New York has always been a city of people who are firmly convinced that whatever is being done, they could do it better. When the city announced its $10 million dollar renovation of the famous restaurant, Donald Trump proudly proclaimed that it would be a failure and nobody would go there. Recently the restaurant, which is slated to reopen at the end of this year has come under fire for being classist, having financial difficulties, unfairly favored above other groups, and for having a poor eye for design.

The new operator, Emerald Green Group’s (originally owners of a French creperie in Philadelphia) rep Steven Hall told the New York Post, “Their backer is not coming up with as much [cash] as they expected, so they are looking for extra funds.” Now every publication in the city is concerned whether the new restaurant will be able to pay the city its licensing fee in addition to, you know, the rest of the fees associated with running a high profile, union restaurant in New York City:

But the problems could hit home when the Philly boys start paying for food, labor and utilities, which can be tens of millions of dollars annually. – “Tavern no green [Exclusive] Cash shortfall could delay eatery’s reopening.” New York Post

Such speculation is rather unwarranted at this point. Particularly since the new Tavern will have significantly less overhead by design thanks to the lessons the city learned from the failing of Warner Leroy’s famed previous establishment. However, it will remain to be seen whether the restaurant group will gain the needed backing. We find it unlikely however that such a prominent and potentially lucrative location will fail to entice backers.

Numerous other groups have taken jabs at Tavern on the Green in past weeks too. Community Board 7 doesn’t like the color of maroon that was selected for Tavern’s awning. Interesting…. where have I seen a maroon awning before? Oh! Wait, that’s right.

Warner Leroy's Tavern on the Green

Warner Leroy’s Tavern on the Green

Yes! The former iteration of Tavern on the Green had a maroon awning also. Perhaps that’s the reason they don’t like it. Community Board 7 has been fighting to change Tavern on the Green from an upscale institution to a casual jeans and t-shirt establishment. The awning will likely remain maroon as it’s now being touted as the original color used in 1934. However the assault from CM7 doesn’t stop there. They feel the separate entrance for cheaper take out entrances (very similar to the one found at The Boathouse restaurant in the center of the park) will have a second class feel to it.

Last but not least, New Yorkers are astounded that a small restaurant group from (gag) Pennsylvania is going to get a shot at the big time. How did it happen? The New York Post again has a theory.

Post City Hall Bureau Chief David Seifman revealed that Salama is the brother-in-law of former Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey, a close pal of Mayor Bloomberg and a top executive at Bloomberg LP.

Could it be nepotism? Hmm… City Comptroller John Liu says his office will “investigate.” You never know? Liu’s office revoked the contract of the former Central Park Carousel operator for not keeping up with required maintenance. It’s entirely possible. But if it is true, we’ll probably never find out. At least the menu looks good. Check out our concurrent post with a preview of the new menu for Tavern on the Green.

What do you think? Are things falling apart before they’ve begun? Or are New Yorkers simply always hungry for controversy?

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Who Will Operate The New Tavern On The Green?

Tavern On The Green

The new Tavern on the Green will not resemble the former storied Warner LeRoy restaurant at all. It’s best to get that out of the way right off the bat. Yes, it’s sad, but the great thing about New York is that legends are born all the time. More on that if you take our tour.

It’s been two and a half months since the deadline for proposals to run the new incarnation of the restaurant were due and we’ve heard precious little about who will take over the iconic location. In February of this year, the city invited approximately one hundred restaurateurs to take a tour of the restaurant and learn about their plans for the site, “a casual restaurant, outdoor café, and bar that will honor the original design intent of the Olmsted and Vaux park plan and exist in harmony with its naturalistic park setting.” A ten million dollar renovation will soon restore the building to its original design as a sheepfold. After restoration, it will be approximately 30,000 square feet, nearly half its recent size. The new restaurant will not be allowed to hang lights, play loud music after ten, shut down for private events, or be open after 1am (when the park closes).

This did not sit well with many of the attendees, notably Donald Trump. It is just too small a deal now,” Trump told the New York Times. “Nobody is going to go there.” Trump had planned to rebuild the the Crystal Room. The New York Times wrote a rather detailed article with quotes from many who decided not to submit proposals for the restaurant. The article was quoted by bloggers the internet over claiming that “nobody good will bid on Tavern on the Green” or “only two restaurant groups are interested in running the property.” This may be the case, but it may not.

As we mentioned, about one hundred restaurateurs were invited to take the tour and the Times article mentions nine of these groups, seven of which weren’t interested and two of which were. This means there are a number of groups out there who may have put in bids. Until we’ve heard who is awarded the location, we’re going to compile a list of those who are interested, not interested, and otherwise.

YES

Legends Hospitality:Legends runs the concessions and food and beverage departments for Yankee Stadium, and while they are responsible for some delicious garlic fries, it’s hard to imagine what sort of restaurant they would bring to the table.

Beau Monde: This Philly based restaurant group is responsible for a successful French creperie. However, one has to wonder if they would be able to thrive in New York City, particularly when they might have to work with the Hotel and Motel Trades Council, the union that formerly represented staff at Tavern on the Green and currently represents workers at The Boathouse.

City Winery: The Gotham branch of this Chicago and New York wine bar operates in SoHo and makes its own wine.

MAYBE

B&B Hospitality: Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich, and Joe Bastianich’s restaurant group.

Dave Arnold: of the French Culinary Institute and Booker & Dax bar at Momofuku Ssam Bar

NO

Michael O’Neal: Owner of the Boat Basin

Drew Nieporent: Of Corton and Nobu fame.

Orient-Express Hotels: Owner of the “21” Club;

The Glazier Group: Owns Michael Jordans, Bridgewaters at the South Street Seaport.

Bill Telepan: chef at Telepan

Lawry’s: The steakhouse chain

Mario Carbone and Jeff Zalaznick: of Torrisi Italian Specialties

Dean Poll: Operator of the Boathouse

Donald J. Trump

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