City looks to build eatery in Forest Park

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Eating your greens may soon have a new meaning in Queens.

If a city Parks Department plan becomes reality, much-needed renovations and repairs on the Queens Greenhouse in Forest Park will be undertaken without the use of taxpayer dollars and borough residents will have a new, botanical place to eat.

The city is accepting proposals for the construction of a new restaurant behind the greenhouse complex near the carousel in Forest Park off Woodhaven Boulevard.

Under the plan, the group that submits the winning proposal will be required to carry out substantial renovations and repairs to the five existing greenhouses, officials said.

Richard Murphy, Queens parks commissioner, said the greenhouses, constructed in 1912, are “historic.” He said repairs would require a significant amount of money.

“To have the greenhouse (complex) refurbished and brought up to maximum production is a wonderful thing not only because of the restaurant but because the rest of the borough will benefit from the beautiful flowers it produces,” Murphy said.

Plants and flowers grown at the Queens Greenhouse are used by the city throughout the five boroughs at official ceremonies and other events.

According to city officials, the eating establishment will share an entrance with the greenhouses, allowing diners to enjoy the sights and smells of an array of plants and flowers on the way to their tables. The dining area, enclosed in glass, will look out onto the greenhouses, officials said.

“People will have a green experience while eating,” said a Parks Department spokeswoman.

“This is almost too good to be true,” said Murphy. “To be eating in that environment, it’s just wonderful. It would be a tremendous hit.”

Maria Thomson, executive director of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation and the Woodhaven Business Improvement District, agreed. “We think it’s a great idea,” she said. “It would bring a lot of attention to our beautiful park.”

Thomson said the restaurant could host parties and it has the potential to be Queens’ version of Tavern on the Green, the fabled Central Park eatery.

“It could be a real showplace,” she said. “It could be very profitable.”

Plans call for the restaurant to include sit-down tables, a kitchen facility and restrooms.

Thomson wants the Parks Department to expand those plans to include the nearby carousel, which is closed to the public during the winter months.

“They should try to incorporate the carousel with the restaurant and cover the carousel so it would be an all-year-round feature,” she said. “It would be a nice addition to the whole restaurant area.”

Proposals for the construction and operation of the restaurant are due to the Parks Department by Oct. 25 at 3 p.m.

Murphy believes the eatery will give a boost to Forest Park, a green space he thinks is underused.

“It seems to me that the borough of Queens hasn’t discovered the beauty of Forest Park,” he said. “If this becomes a destination, people will have dinner and then take strolls through the park. It would be like Central Park. It would be beautiful.”

Reach reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

Updated 7:25 pm, October 10, 2011
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