Correction: This story was modified on 8/15/2017 to reflect that Upsilon Ventures does not currently operate the facilities at Bryant Park.
It looks like the city has settled on an operator for the long-shuttered comfort station at Allen and Delancey streets. The Parks Department is hoping to sign a 20-year lease with the company that runs restaurants and event spaces in parks and other public facilities across the city.
According to a memo sent to the Manhattan Borough President and Community Board 3, the city is preparing to make a deal with Upsilon Ventures, a development and production firm located on Madison Avenue.
The memo, provided to us by the Parks Department, stated that the city is, “seeking Franchise Concession Review Committee approval… to negotiate a Sole Source License Agreement with Bryant Park Market Events, LLC / Upsilon Ventures for the renovation, operation and maintenance of a food service facility (inside the vacant Allen Street comfort station).” The lease is not considered a “major concession,” which apparently means that no public hearing will be required. The committee must give the go-ahead to begin formal negotiations.
[If you want to read more about the city’s Franchise Concession Review Committee, and how concessions of this type are handled, click here.]
In July of 2016, the city issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Allen Street bathhouse, which was abandoned 60 years ago when the elevated train was dismantled. It called for a food service operation in the space. The city earmarked $2 million in public funds to renovate the pedestrian mall between Delancey Street and Rivington Street. The RFP called for the future operator to be responsible for renovating the old building, and to reopen the public bathrooms. Those renovation costs have been estimated at $1 million.
The Parks Department received quite a bit of pushback from the community board. Some community members said there is clearly no need for another food/beverage business in an area already saturated with nightlife options. Others noted that a local visioning process several years ago called for the comfort station to be activated as a community space, perhaps for bicycle repair and educational programs. Some language about bicycle repair did make its way into the RFP.
On its website, Upsilon Ventures says it, “is a project development, marketing, hospitality, and production firm specializing in public-private partnerships and the use of public spaces and real estate for iconic attractions, sponsor activations, events, consumer engagement, temporary retail, and other revenue generating opportunities.” It formerly operated the Winter Village and ice rink in Bryant Park. It was awarded a contract for the ice rink at Prospect Park and is a consultant for the events space at the World Trade Center. Upsilon Ventures is also behind the Big Apple BBQ Block Party, among other projects.
City and Upsilon Ventures representatives will appear for Community Board 3’s parks committee in September of October. A request for more details from the company went unanswered. So it remains to be seen exactly what the firm has in mind on the Lower East Side.