BY THE VILLAGE SUN | The review process to make Mayor de Blasio’s Open Restaurants program permanent is moving forward, with a hearing on the issue planned for Wed., Oct. 6, starting at 10 a.m. at the City Planning Commission.
According to Assemblymember Deborah Glick, who put out a community notice about the hearing, it will largely be a virtual meeting via Zoom and those interested in speaking need to register in advance that morning.
The text amendment in question specifically applies to sidewalk cafes. City Hall intends to strip away the existing prohibitions on where sidewalk cafes can exist — including, for example, connected to grandfathered commercial storefronts on residential side streets.
As for Open Restaurants, with its dining sheds in the public roadways — which the mayor and City Council have unilaterally decreed will be a permanent program — agency officials have been evasive about whether local community boards would have any input on approving operators’ applications for sheds in the future.
In June, the Department of City Planning began what is basically a ULURP (public review) process for a text amendment that would overhaul the decades-old regulations on sidewalk cafes.
The Open Restaurants program, with its roadway “yurts,” as some dubbed them, was an emergency measure launched in spring 2020 to help out bars and restaurants that had been forced to close in order to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“Currently, this administration is seeking to permanently change the street cafe provisions that have long existed in New York City to make a sidewalk cafe an as-of-right option for restaurants and bars, effectively ceding public space to one industry with no compensation to taxpayers,” Glick said. “This would also mean that local review through the community boards will no longer happen, and area residents would not have the same input into a restaurant’s operations on the street right below their windows.
“There are many provisions in the Permanent Open Restaurants text amendment which are concerning,” she said, “and while some parts of the city have more of a separation between commercial and residential streets, the current proposal does not work as well on the mixed-use streets of Lower Manhattan.
“Outdoor dining has resulted in a substantial increase in noise complaints, overflowing trash and rats, and unfettered amplified sound and televisions outdoors,” the assemblymember said, “and there is no confidence that the Department of Transportation will provide appropriate enforcement to address these egregious conditions.”
Glick urged locals to testify at the City Planning hearing, saying, “I encourage everyone who will be affected by the Open Restaurants text amendment to let their voice be heard.”