Construction Staging Area Returns to Vest Pocket Park at Foot of 59th St. Ed Koch Bridge

From the restoration of a vest pocket park at the foot of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge to a trio of new Greek restaurants and even the newest Panera chain restaurant, our trusted East Side Observer is seeing signs of a rebound on the Upper East Side.

| 27 Mar 2023 | 04:42

Ed Koch must be kvelling.

Honey Locust Park, located next to the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge on 59th between 1st and 2nd Avenues on Dept of Transportation (DOT) property–so-named because it once had a grove of honey locust trees–was recently reconstructed. On April 13th at 11 a.m., there will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the opening of the park. Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue, Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, Manhattan borough president Mark Levine, District 5’s Council Member Julie Menin, and Judy Schneider, co-chair of Community Board 8’s Parks and Recreation Committee will be there. The public is invited.

The site was used as a staging area for work on the bridge and later by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for work on the water tunnel shaft site on the First Avenue corner. DEP’s Deputy Chief Operating Officer Kim Cipriano will be among the ribbon cutters. Honey Locust Park’s restoration makes for green space that softens the imposing nature of the bridge and the surrounding traffic and has the additional benefit of retaining storm-water within the property, all while allowing DOT access for maintenance and repair of the bridge. And it’s the perfect setting to honor NY’s 105th Mayor.

Enough with the telemarketers. It didn’t take long for the UES’s newly elected first-term Assembly Member Alex Bores to take on ever-present, ever-annoying telemarketing solicitors. In a nearly unanimous bi-partisan vote (146-1), the bill, A04456, raises the penalty on telemarketers who violate the Do Not Call Registry. The bill was first introduced in the Assembly by Bores’s predecessor in the 73rd AD, now Civil Court Judge Dan Quart. In seeing the bill moved to the Senate, Bores said, “This is a victory for every New Yorker who is tired of unwanted calls and would like to be able to pick up their phone in peace.” His sentiments were echoed by Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes: “This common sense legislation will help deter violations of the Do Not Call Registry and I commend Assembly member Bores for passing the bill.” And maybe keep Scam Likely from calling.

New restaurant life

Finally, at long last, the UES’s empty storefronts are filling up with restaurants. Mostly casual. Some upscale. Pizza, gyros, ramen are among the grab and go casuals. And of course there’s the new generation of Starbucks with coffee cafes like Paris Baguette, Le Pain Quotidian, Patis (kosher), Patisserie Vanessa, Cafe Serafina. But there’s also upscale ethnic–in the 80s and 90s east, from 3d to 1st Avenues–there are at least three Greek restaurants: Korali Estiatorio (1662 3rd Ave.); Yasouvlaki (1568 3rd Ave.) and Tino’s (1748 3rd. Ave.). At the northeast corner of 91st and 3rd in the space that was formerly home to Yura’s and Corner Cafe, a fancy Italian restaurant’s unfolding. And on the opposite side of the street there will be a casual Italian dine-in where you can also get pizza by the slice.

Keep walking on 3rd toward 86th St and you’ll find that Panera finally opened. However, if you’re looking for the gracious Panera setting of other Paneras around town, including the one that was located on 86th off Lex, forget it. The 86th St Panera has table seating on the upper level. Seating on the street level is pure eat and run. One long counter faces a wall with chairs along the route. Not conducive seating for a soup bread bowl lunch with a friend. Panera’s obviously looking to tap into the take-out market of Chick-fil-a, their popular next-door neighbor. The AMC movie theater is a few steps away.(If only there were people waiting to get in there.) While the new Panera business design model may be good for take-out/eat and run, it will be taking a toll on the already-crammed-bike-and-people street scene that’s the face of the Chick-fil-A storefront. Right now, Panera on 86th is strictly grab and go/take-out/eat and run. Here’s hoping they go back to their old days and old ways.