Future of outdoor dining under microscope from NYC leaders, activists

COVID-19

NEW YORK (PIX11) — Outdoor dining structures at thousands of restaurants around the five boroughs have become a lifeline for struggling eateries trying to stay afloat during the pandemic. The city’s Open Restaurant Initiative has kept so many restaurants open—and it’s kept patrons safe from the pandemic.

But some city and community leaders argue that the plan needs more regulations to better control outdoor dining before the city makes it permanent in 2023. Opponents gathered Wednesday morning outside of the Department of City Planning to say they won’t vote on a proposed amendment to make the dining plan permanent until there’s more oversight.

Concerns include noise and wide-open setups that soak up space and restrict parking, always a hot commodity in New York. In some cases, the outdoor structures still stand for restaurants that are closed. Others are now a shared space for diners, rats, and homeless individuals.

Around 12,000 dining sheds currently line city streets and sidewalks. They’re allowed to stay until the end of 2022. “This is not a recovery, this is gonzo urban planning. This is ‘move fast and break things,’” said Leslie Clark of the West Village Residents Association.

NEWS10’s sister station in New York City spoke to patrons on the Upper West Side who would like to see the fixtures in place permanently, but with more regulations. “It does give a wonderful feel and I think its great restaurants can do this and I would miss it, but it’s led the city to even more chaos as far as the streets go,” said Peter Bliss.

Detractors urged the city to improve enforcement and oversight of the temporary program before making it permanent in 2023. The NYCDOT manages and oversees operations.

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