It is, finally, just the sort of weather that makes a vigorous young New Yorker want to frolic — or at least eat and drink — in the great outdoors. Like, for example, at that bar-and-restaurant place inside Union Square. (It's technically called Luna Park.) But wasn't the city planning to do some renovation at the north end of the park, something with that restaurant? Indeed, and yesterday Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe caught us up on the planning. In 2004, he announced plans to complete the Square's beautification by joining the park's two playgrounds and creating a year-round eatery where that weird fortresslike structure now stands, near 17th Street. But after local sputtering, Benepe confirmed to us, Parks has ditched the controversial year-round part.
Current plans, he said, call for landscape firm Michael Van Valkenburgh & Associates to unify the current "prison yard" playgrounds — that's Benepe's term — into a 15,000-square-foot facility, move the still-seasonal café into what's now a maintenance area and "disgusting excuse for a bathroom" — his words, again — and then install a free-standing public toilet. Benepe, whose father founded the Greenmarket, hopes to see a complete design by June, start bidding by fall, and finish the project in 2009, without ever closing the playgrounds. And he doesn't even mind lingering rumors — untrue, he insists — that the restaurant will become corporatized and full-time. "People are debating what a park looks like as opposed to wondering whether they'll be safe," he says. "That's great news for us." —Alec Appelbaum