NYC plans to get rid of outdoor dining sheds after pandemic

Big changes to the Big Apple’s outdoor dining scene are on the table — including a plan to get rid of its popular, but controversial, outdoor dining sheds.

The head of the city’s transportation department’s open restaurant program told a city council committee on Tuesday that makeshift structures will not be allowed to remain standing after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.

“We do not envisage hangars in the permanent program. We are not anticipating this,” said program director Julie Schipper.

“What would be on the pavement [are] barriers and tents or umbrellas, but not those full halls you see on the street.

Schipper said the DOT program — which would replace emergency measures enacted amid the pandemic — “is really intended for a post-COVID scenario, where you can dine out when it feels nice and comfortable, but you won’t need to be in a house across the street.

In response to a question about whether the existing hangars would be allowed to remain, Schipper said, “We will not be grandfathering any of the restaurants and their current structures at this time.

The DOT program provides outdoor dining after COVID-19 which does not include makeshift homes.
Helayne Seidman

“These restaurants applied for the self-certification process very quickly during the emergency program,” she said. “Going forward there will be a full review, so they will have to submit their plans which they plan to include.”

Schipper’s remarks came during a one-day virtual hearing on legislation, requested by Mayor Eric Adams, for a permanent outdoor dining program to help boost the city’s struggling restaurant industry. city.

Under an emergency ordinance signed last year by the then government. Andrew Cuomo, restaurants can continue to use sidewalks and streets until early July.

The bill’s sponsor, Consumer and Worker Protection Commission Chair Marjorie Velazquez (D-The Bronx), said ‘al fresco dining reinvented what the city could do with our streets. but acknowledged “some unintended negative consequences” including “excessive noise” and more “garbage and vermin.”

Consumer and Worker Protection Committee Chair Marjorie Velazquez admitted there have been issues with outdoor dining, including vermin and limited sidewalk accessibility.
Consumer and Worker Protection Committee Chair Marjorie Velazquez admitted there have been issues with outdoor dining, including vermin and limited sidewalk accessibility.
Getty Images

Velazquez also said some sidewalks have become “less accessible” to people with disabilities and noted the “horror” of abandoned sheds and “a handful of accidents where cars have entered outdoor structures.”

Councilman Kalman Yeger (D-Brooklyn) — who has compared curbside booths to “slum sheds” — complained that restaurant owners have “been able to increase the size of their space , to not pay property taxes on it, to not pay rent on it, and to have the possibility of obtaining free space thanks to the city of New York.

“Although we created a program for the restaurants, we did not create a program for the shoe store next door, for the bookstore next door, for the hardware store which all lost space on the sidewalk, who all lost [parking] spots, all of which have lost the appeal of a city block for people wanting to shop there because it’s now chaotic and anarchist,” he said.

Susan Stelzer, district manager for Manhattan’s Community Board 3, which covers East Village and Lower East Side restaurants, said zoning rules written to protect neighborhood residents have all been upended by outdoor dining.

“We have drunk people under our bedroom windows,” she said. “Twelve and one o’clock is not acceptable for people who have to get up in the morning and go to work and put their children to bed.”

And Susi Schopp, a member of the East Village’s St. Marks Tenant Association, said the outdoor dining program “has failed in enforcement” and “has dramatically reduced the quality of life for New Yorkers.” , including quiet nighttime enjoyment of their accommodation.”

“My block, between Saint-Marc and 2nd and 3rd avenues, is lined with 50 food and drink establishments. The street now looks like a slum,” she said.

Councilor Kalman Yeger called the structures "slum sheds."
Councilman Kalman Yeger called the structures “slum sheds”.
Stefan Jeremiah for the New York Post

“Since the start of the trial program, our block has seen an already terrible increase in rat infestation, noise pollution into the wee hours of the morning, dangerous conditions, increased crime, congestion of sidewalks and streets, sidewalks as narrow as three feet.”

David Mulkins, Chairman of the Bowery Alliance of Neighbours, also said: “During off hours, and when businesses fail and sheds sit empty, they become a safe haven for thieves and rapists.

Meanwhile, Haley Fox, co-owner of Alice’s Tea Cup, which has locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn, has come out in favor of sheds, saying the surge of Omicron forced her business to close in December, which “would have been the month we caught up with for most of the year.

“These structures provide us with extra seating, and done right, they also provide us with a way to stay away from people who come in and say, ‘Oh, but I’m not vaccinated and I want to eat inside.’ , because we can say: you can eat out,” she said.

A vandalized exterior restoration structure that has been abandoned in Manhattan.
A vandalized exterior restoration structure that has been abandoned in Manhattan.
Christopher Sadowski

“We also serve a lot of children at my house. I think a lot of companies feel that way and as we know 25% of children have been vaccinated. So there really is no other way.

Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, insisted there was room for compromise.

“We are not saying: make every aspect of this temporary emergency permanent. We’re saying, we need to create a more standardized and sustainable curriculum,” he told the committee.

“It’s an incredible opportunity for our city to come out of all the misfortune of the pandemic,” he said. “So let’s do it right. We shouldn’t be so focused on what went wrong. We should focus on what will work in the future.

The city council has not yet scheduled a vote on the bill.

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