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There’s a new Paradis (pronounced par-a-dee) in Midtown West — or is that Hudson Yards or Hell’s Kitchen? A story of seven years of NYC bureaucracy ended last night as the grandiose “kiosk” at Bella Abzug Park finally opened to the public.
The new coffee shop, snack bar and happy hour destination called Paradis in the Park launched last night in the sweet spot between Hell’s Kitchen neighbors seeking open space, Javits Center attendees escaping conferences and Hudson Yards office workers coming back to earth. They will be serving coffee and espressos, breakfast, lunch and light dinner fare, snacks, and cool drinks including cocktails, wine, and beer at the park block on W36th Street between 10/11th Avenues.
It is the second location for Union Square’s Paradis To Go, which has been a longtime favorite for its seasonally-driven, healthy approach to comfort foods. The new park concession will be operated by Kim Paradis and Jodi Luby — Kim’s business partner in the latest venture. Kim talked about the 14 years of building the business up to the opening of the new location: “Paradis remains one of my greatest achievements, second only to being a mother to our twins Hugo and Marion. Paradis – French for paradise – is a name that truly suits our store and its mission. I am so grateful to be doing what I love, bringing joy to hundreds of customers daily and working side by side with talented and dedicated staff.”
Opening the park’s kiosk was a years-long process, waylaid by the one-two punch of the pandemic and endless regulatory approvals.
W42ST spoke with Robert Benfatto, President of the Hudson Yards Hell’s Kitchen Alliance (HYHK) about the long and winding road to opening concessions in the park. Benfatto’s involvement with HYHK — the not-for-profit neighborhood Business Improvement District (BID) that runs all of Bella Abzug Park’s programming — began through his work with Community Board 4. From there, he was a part of the committee that formed the alliance and was eventually asked to helm the entire operation. After HYHK took responsibility for the park in 2015, it took a whole year to get through the process of building a food kiosk that looks like an architectural folly concocted by Frank Gehry and Bjarke Ingels.
Completed in 2016, HYHK received temporary clearance to host events with food and drink and was able to host occasional gatherings for the alliance, Avenues School fundraisers, and even a W42ST-hosted “Party in the Park”, before they moved to make the space a more permanent arrangement.
“It took about two years before the City of New York considered the BID a franchise, which allowed us to hire sub-concessionaires,” said Benfatto. HYHK then put out a Request For Proposal to find a vendor. The team at Paradis won and the long process of getting city approvals began.
“Since we restarted, it’s just been getting a liquor license, getting a Health Department license,” said Benfatto. “There’s no liquor yet because even though they’ve been approved by the SLA, the State Liquor Authority is behind in getting out licenses.”
Eventually, Paradis will also have pushcarts located around the three-block park where you can grab a cold brew or a rich espresso near the subway exits from the 7 train.
In addition to its regular hours, Paradis in the Park will be a part of the HYHK’s Spring Fling festival on April 23 and 24. The music, arts, and food festival will feature food, wine, and beer from Paradis as well as New York-based vendors and performances from a wide variety of artists. Colored Colors, a Long Island-based organization that partners local creatives with community groups, has sourced much of the event’s talent, said Isabella Conway, marketing and programming manager for HYHK.
“We want to let people know that the park is open and they’re welcome to come back because it hasn’t been fully activated since the pandemic,” said Conway. “There will be an arts market with different local makers, lots of food, and we’ll also have different bands perform throughout the day, a poetry slam, some standup comedy, and on Saturday, one of our biggest events will be Vinyl Night — it’s a huge dance party with DJs playing vinyl records.”
The revitalization of the park and surrounding community businesses — including Paradis in the Park — are vital to the continued growth of Hudson Yards and Hell’s Kitchen’s community, said Conway. Kim and Jodi agree, noting that the neighborhood has “a really nice local presence. They’re super excited to be here. I was surprised, quite frankly, about the number of locals,” said Paradis.
“I’m most excited about letting people know that this neighborhood is more than just offices — we want to celebrate the spaces that the neighborhood has to provide,” added Conway. “We want to remind people that it’s not just a transient area, there’s a community here.”
I noticed last week that the Paradise concession was open. My apt overlooks the 37th St segment of Bella Abzug Park, which has been fully constructed and landscaped for over a year, yet still is not open.
I wonder why?
Although Block 4 of the park (between 36th and 37th) has appeared finished for quite some time, it was only recently hooked up to the power grid. There are a few other “punch list” items and approvals to go. But it should open this spring/summer season.
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