City government

Outdoor dining plan still planned to allow pavement seating, council confirms

New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams caused a stir on Wednesday, saying she thinks a permanent version of the city’s Open Restaurants program should focus on sidewalk cafes, not “streeteries.” at the edge of the street. “Outdoor dining, in my opinion, should be on the sidewalk. Sidewalk works. Instead of the structures we have on the streets now,” adam said at a breakfast hosted by the good governance group Citizens Union.

Next backlash from the restaurant industry and open street advocates who want curbside dining to continue, the Speaker’s Office said Adams is speaking his mind that outdoor dining on the streets will still be allowed somehow under a bill that would make open restaurants permanent, the temporary program put in place at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The speaker indicated that she was providing her own perspective at breakfast this morning,” a spokesperson said in a statement to City & State. “The Outdoor Dining Bill is still being worked through through the legislative process, and it continues to allow outdoor dining on the streets at certain times while regulating permanent structures.”

The Speaker’s Office did not specify “certain times” when outdoor dining on the streets would be allowed, or what the regulations would look like for permanent structures. The invoice in question was first presented by Council Member Marjorie Velázquez in February, and is still being updated with a new version. Velázquez did not respond to a request for comment on what the pavement dining bill currently says.

The earlier version of the bill allowed pavement dining, which explains some of the surprise at Adams’ comments on Wednesday that suggested she wanted pavement dining completely restricted in the permanent program. “The street extensions, again, were meant to be temporary, to make sure we didn’t lose our businesses,” Adams said. “Structures that are on streets, that take up bike lanes and parking spaces and other things that may or may not be popular for some, but were never intended to be permanent structures, we have to take a look at mastering these. .”

The desire to have the new program permanent in the dining sheds that restaurants have set up on the streets — and which are permitted under the city’s temporary Open Restaurants program established in 2020 — hasn’t exactly been a secret. . Velázquez told City & State earlier this month that the board is trying to figure out how to phase out those sheds in the permanent program. And Julie Schipper, the director of the current temporary Open Restaurants program, previously said that they do not consider the sheds as part of the permanent program.

But both Schipper and Velázquez said they’re considering replacing cabanas with other types of pavement seating. “We’re talking more about standardizing chairs and tables, and blocking traffic (items) like planters,” Velázquez told City & State earlier this month. This type of installation – resembling sidewalk cafes but placed on the roadway – is already being used by some restaurants in the city as part of the temporary Open Restaurants program.

Following Adams’ comments on Wednesday morning, restaurant industry representatives and advocates for repurposing city streets as something other than parking spaces and motorists quickly pushed back against the idea of ​​a program. Permanent outdoor dining focused only on sidewalk seating and limited pavement or sidewalk seating. “Pavement seating has been on the bill since its introduction and is part of current conversations related to the development of permanent outdoor dining,” wrote Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, in a E-mail. “It shouldn’t be a question of whether or not there will be streeteries, but how to do it properly for its long-term sustainability, compared to the current program standards which have been put in place quickly and have evolved in response. to a massive economic and health crisis.”

“Our sidewalks are already crowded and moving outdoor dining exclusively to the sidewalk would take away even more space from pedestrians, the lifeblood of our city,” added Sara Lind, director of policy at Open Plans, an organization in nonprofit that advocates for the repurposing of streets. “It is incredibly disappointing to hear the speaker cater to the whims of a few angry parkers instead of spearheading a vision that benefits all New Yorkers.”

Mayor Eric Adams’ administration, which supports the sustainability of outdoor dining, also wants restaurants to be able to expand street seating options. “Mayor Adams supports a comprehensive, fair and permanent Open Restaurants program that all New Yorkers can be proud of,” City Hall spokesman Charles Lutvak said in a statement. “That means resurrecting local restaurants across the city post-pandemic with sidewalk and pavement seating, protecting the 100,000 jobs this program saved during the pandemic, and reimagining street space to better serve all. New Yorkers, while putting critical health and sanitary safeguards in place under the Department of Transportation.

The administration, however, had some points of contention with the city council over what the permanent program should look like. As City & State previously reported, the administration wants the Department of Transportation to run the program, while the council wants the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection to run it. Prior to the temporary Open Restaurants program that began in 2020, DCWP handled licensing for the much smaller sidewalk cafe program.

But disagreements between the mayor’s office and the city council are frequent. The speaker made this clear in her responses to other questions at the Citizens’ Union event. She was asked what she thinks of Mayor Adams’ Program to Close the Gap, or PEG, demanding 3% cuts to the operating budget of every city agency. “What do I hope to see out of the mayor’s PEG plan? I hope they recant,” she said, before an unenthusiastic “just kidding.” The city faces an economic dilemma, she said, and while she understands the need to be frugal, she hopes to see more of a plan for the cuts. “Because what we can’t do is jeopardize a stronger exit from this situation by downsizing where we need it most. So I really hope there’s a plan behind it. the PEG.

Adams has also been consistent in her dislike of temporary structures on the street. Asked by CNN analyst John Avlon, who hosted the event, about reducing the number of scaffolding around skyscrapers, Adams came alive, calling the sidewalk shelters “horrors”.

“We have a beautiful city. A beautifully staked city that needs more landmarks. A place where tourists love to come and take pictures,” Adams said. “And then you have monstrosities like this that totally ruin your photos.”

She understands the need to have scaffolding and buildings in good condition, but structures cannot stay in place for years and years. “We want the world to see our beautiful buildings.”