BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | The shed might hit the fan again – soon.
The Village Sun has learned that an invoice for New York’s permanent Open Restaurants program could be “ready to go” as early as late November.
A city government source familiar with the story told the newspaper that a group of local community activists concerned about open restaurants recently met with the city council staff member who is the person responsible for drafting the draft. law. Council members Erik Bottcher and Christopher Marte are said to have organized the meeting. Marte has previously marched with community residents who vehemently oppose permanent dining sheds.
The source told the Village Sun that there were three “highlights” of the bill so far, at least in his view. First, the permanent program of open restaurants will be “seasonal”. However, the source could not say at this stage what the exact start and end dates for the season would be.
Second, road sheds – or yurts, shacks or “streeteries”, or whatever one chooses to call them – will not be part of the permanent plan. Instead, as the Department for Transport has previously said, there will be tables, chairs and umbrellas – but no cabanas – which will be placed on the roadway and can be “taken away”. However, again, not all the details have been worked out yet. For example, it is unclear whether operators would be required to bring street furniture indoors after hours.
Third, under the bill being drafted, oversight and jurisdiction of open restaurants would remain with the city’s Department of Transportation, not the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, as critics argue. . Critics of the hangar say the DOT has not done enough to address program violations and bad hangar operators, in general.
The government source added that there is still a lot to negotiate and that during the meeting between Council staff and community residents, which took place last week, some clear negotiating points emerged. For starters, it looks like the city wants a phase-out period of up to a year for sheds. That one-year clock would start ticking as soon as Mayor Adams signed the bill.
The one year grace period is not because it is so difficult to remove a flimsy plywood shed. After all, tearing down a dilapidated restaurant shed isn’t exactly like tearing down the Seattle Kingdome. Mayor Adams himself even showed that bringing down a shed was easy, when he slammed one of Midtown’s abandoned structures during a press conference there. not long.
Instead, giving restaurants a year to get rid of contentious sheds gives those businesses time to “change their model” of operating, the source said. For example, some restaurants might have hired more staff to tend to their hangars. Giving restaurants some time to transition to homeless dining would prevent a large wave of worker layoffs at the same time, the source noted.
Naturally, the NYC Hospital Alliance is also expected to support this phasing out of sheds. Meanwhile, on the other hand, shed critics obviously want the culinary “little houses” off the streets as soon as possible.
One option that could be considered would be to speed up the phasing out of sheds faster in neighborhoods heavily “overcrowded” with them – such as Greenwich Village and East Village – but allow more time for their removal in outlying neighborhoods that were lacking previously. outdoor dining. So the downtown sheds could possibly be phased out in, say, three months, the source speculated.
However, Leslie Clark, leader of the West Village Residents Association and CUEUP – a citywide anti-shelter ad hoc group – said whoever briefed The Village Sun on certain aspects of the pending bill had only told part of the story – and left out what critics consider the most important part. She declined to say whether she attended the meeting with the Council staff member.
“The community view is that any bill should go to a public hearing,” Clark said. “If you want to change the whole cityscape of New York, you should have a public hearing. This is the main problem. »
There had already been a major city council hearing in February on a zoning law amendment to remove all existing sidewalk cafe regulations from the city’s zoning. New rules for sidewalk cafes then had to be created as part of the overall outdoor dining plan. However, “a lot has changed since February,” Clark pointed out.
“The biggest issue for me is why aren’t they transparent and why aren’t they holding a public hearing?” she says.
Regarding the generous roadside shed phase-out period, Clark bristled: “A one-year extension for open restaurants is not acceptable.”
There have already been two community lawsuits filed against Open Restaurants, of which Clark is an individual plaintiff. State Supreme Court Judge Frank Nervo ruled on the first lawsuit in March, saying the city was negligent in failing to conduct a full-scale environmental impact study, or EIA, for the extensive program. Additionally, a second lawsuit, filed in July, seeks to immediately end Open Restaurants, arguing that there is no longer a health emergency to justify keeping the pandemic-inspired program going. Attorney Michael Sussman is representing plaintiffs in both lawsuits.
An appellate district court recently dismissed the city’s first appeal, ruling that the lawsuit was not “ripe”, since the permanent open restaurant bill – which would codify rules for the currently temporary program – has not yet been approved.
Clark assured that the first lawsuit was not “thrown away”, as some hangar supporters have tried to spin it, but is ready and waiting at any moment. is ripe to pass it on.
“They say we weren’t ripe – which means we were too early,” she said. “We can come back right away. This door is still wide open. They only closed us on maturity, not on substance. They only said we were too early — we weren’t too late. Frank Nervo said they had to do an environmental impact study, and that hasn’t been decided by the Appeals Division — yet.
“We want a public hearing and we want an environmental impact assessment,” Clark said, “and the Appeals Division has left that door wide open.”
An EIA would include the scope of the program (determination of its scope), a public hearing and also a public comment period.
“An environmental impact hearing means a huge amount of public comment,” Clark explained. “That’s what should happen. It should be open to everyone.
“Do an environmental impact study – what are they afraid of?” asked the activist. “Are they afraid that the environmental impacts are not as low as they think?
“Don’t close us in,” she said, “invite us in.”
The Village Sun reached out to the government source to find out if there would be a public hearing on the proposed permanent open restaurant bill.