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Cafe in the cards for Cadman Plaza Park in Downtown Brooklyn

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A new cafe could open in one of Cadman Plaza Park’s old maintenance buildings.
Photo by Susan De Vries

A new cafe could soon be coming to Downtown Brooklyn’s Cadman Plaza Park, with the city asking businesses interested in setting up shop to submit a proposal of their plans.

According to the NYC Parks Department’s request for proposals, the cafe would take over the circa 1950s concrete maintenance building that sits near Cadman Plaza West and Tillary Street. The concessionaire, who must have experience in the food service industry, will be tasked with transforming “the current structure into a cafe that adds to the ambience of Cadman Plaza Park and provides an amenity to park goers,” the RFP says.

The successful bidder will be able to expand the current 450-square-foot footprint of the building and place tables, chairs and umbrellas at the cafe, as well as placing seating on the surrounding lawn if decking is installed and on the park’s center oval, all subject to Parks’ approval.

The city plans to renovate the portion of the park bounded by Cadman Plaza East, Prospect Street, Cadman Plaza West and Tillary Street, the RFP details, which will include landscaping, resurfacing of pavement, the rehab of stairs, fencing and the installation of water fountains. The twin building opposite the cafe site will also be converted into a comfort station — however, there is no timetable for when that will happen, according to the RFP.

Meanwhile, work continues at Cadman Plaza Park’s Brooklyn War Memorial, which was dedicated in 1951 and was shuttered more than 30 years ago to bring the building into compliance with ADA regulations. Construction started in 2017 as part of the Brooklyn Strand project. The Brooklyn War Memorial revamp isn’t mentioned in the RFP.

Businesses applying for the new location have to submit drawings showing the proposed layout and appearance of the cafe, a detailed plan of operation, price lists and a detailed menu, which Parks must approve. Throughout the RFP, Parks said businesses pitching environmentally sustainable approaches to running the cafe will be favored in the application process, and that includes in the equipment and power they use, food they serve and packaging materials they choose.

While the vendor won’t be allowed to sell beverages in single-use plastic or glass bottles, it will be able to sell alcohol “to complement the food service,” provided it gets a license from the State Liquor Authority. The cafe will be allowed to operate only in the hours the park is open, which are listed online as being from 6 a.m. until 1 a.m.

Work is still under way at the nearby Brooklyn War Memorial to make it ADA compliant.Photo by Susan De Vries

As part of the agreement, the vendor will pay an annual fee to the Parks Department for using the space. Parks is asking applicants to say how much they would pay as part of their proposal, but says the highest bidder will not necessarily be selected. In the RFP, the department gives examples of fees paid by other cafes using city buildings.

The examples include a cafe at Hunter’s Point South in Long Island City in Queens that had gross revenues of $736,856.79 from June 2021 through May 2022 and paid the department $115,616.27. The department said in the RFP it anticipates a substantial investment from the concessionaire in regards to development, operation and maintenance.

“Parks is looking for a concession that will be designed, maintained and operated at the highest standards and will make significant improvement to the visual quality and ambience of the park and its community while providing a convenience to the public. Parks seeks creative and detailed proposals that are sensitive to the park and the surrounding community,” the RFP reads. The cafe would have to sign onto a term of 15 years. Proposals are due on February 15.

Cadman Plaza Park, developed after the city acquired the land by condemnation in 1935, is named after Reverend Dr. Samuel Parkes Cadman, a Brooklyn Congregational minister and radio preacher famed for his oratory.

Cadman was a pastor of the Central Congregational Church in Brooklyn for 36 years, and he helped found the Federated Council of Churches in America, which he headed from 1924 to 1928, according to the city. The massive World War II memorial that sits in the center of the park was one of the largest monuments in New York City at its dedication in 1952.

This story first appeared on Brownstoner.

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