Open Restaurants, an emergency measure the city instituted when New York State banned indoor dining in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, remains on track for permanence. But residents of the five boroughs are mobilizing against the plan, citing the loss of quality of life due to noise, piles of garbage, rats, fire hazards and blocked sidewalks.
The United Coalition for Equitable Urban Policy – an alliance of neighborhood and bloc associations, organizations, businesses and residents – has organized a protest action tomorrow afternoon to shed light on the scourge. It starts at noon in Father Demo Square for a march to the Washington Square Arch, where there will be speakers supporting the removal of the sheds from the streetscape.
Promoted by former Mayor Bill de Blasio and backed by the hospitality industry, the program was designed to make it easier for food establishments to serve customers on sidewalks and curbside shacks. Hearings were held at community councils across the city, resulting in an overall rejection of 62% with a 38% margin. A group of 23 citizens, primarily in Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side, also filed a lawsuit against the city in the New York Supreme Court, claiming the city circumvented longstanding zoning rules and failed to keep account of the long-term effects of the program.
Open restaurants were a lifeline for food establishments when customers were banned from dining indoors. Critics now say, however, that the sheds are an extension of the bars‘ interior spaces. Effectively leading to noise, excess litter and feeding rats, traffic and honking, and overall loss of sidewalks. The structures also pose a problem for emergency responders such as firefighters by obstructing and narrowing vehicular routes.