BY THE VILLAGE SUN | New York City’s outdoor dining sheds are a deadly accident waiting to happen, according to the the city’s firefighters union.
At Saturday’s “Chuck the Sheds” march by the group CUEUP that ended with speeches by the Washington Square Arch, Cornelia Street activist Lief Arntzen read aloud a letter slamming the structures by Andrew Ansbro, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York.
Headlined, “Roadbed Dining Sheds Cause Traffic Restrictions, May Negatively Affect Fire Operations,” the letter warns the sheds pose problems for firefighters on several levels.
Unofficial messages from several #FDNY regarding life saving logistics affected by #RestaurantSheds – #chuckTheSheds return to minimal footprint, community board approved, seasonal outdoor dining and #sunsetthesheds 🔥 pic.twitter.com/6HFQpKtBAr
— East Village by Bike 🎥🗳 (@ChrisRyanAction) February 5, 2022
Some of the conditions Ansbro describes, such as fire trucks having difficulty navigating through and operating on narrowed streets clearly apply in historic Downtown areas like Greenwich Village, the East Village and Lower East Side.
‘If you or a loved one has a shed in front of your building or on your block, you should be concerned.’
— Andrew Ansbro, president, Uniformed Firefighters Association
In fact, the union chief says, everyone “should be concerned” about having a shed in front of their homes due to the dangers it could cause during a fire.
“The haphazard way the (shed) structures went up, with no attention to the Fire Department’s operations, is endangering New Yorkers by causing delays in traffic, which increases the [firefighters’] response time, and in some places the sheds have narrowed the street to the point where we cannot safely and effectively raise ladders from the apparatus to windows,” Ansbro wrote.
This hydrant on Thompson was blocked for more than a year. @FDNY had to mark out the street so they’d find it in an emergency. There are plenty of other examples. Open your eyes. We live here. We see what’s going on. pic.twitter.com/1MAzP0Zirq
— SouthVillageNYC (@SouthVillageNYC) February 6, 2022
“On certain streets that have been narrowed by the placement of sheds, our firefighters are unable to set up the stabilizers from the ladder trucks which are necessary to stabilize the rig so that the ladders can reach residents on upper floors. Also, these sheds at times force the members of Engine companies to
stretch additional hose lines around them to enter the front of the building. If a street is narrowed by the placement of sheds to the point where the street is not much wider than a car, it makes it difficult or impossible for us to set up a ladder/truck.
“If you, or a loved one, has a shed in front of your building, or on your block, you should be concerned about how this shed will affect you, should your building be on fire,” Ansbro warned.
“These sheds not only cause traffic restrictions but in many cases they negatively affect fire operations,” the union head stressed. “Lives are in danger.”
Also at Saturday’s “Chuck the Sheds” protest in the Village, Allie Ryan, a former East Side City Council candidate, pointed out the extent to which the Open Restaurants program has commandeered public space in New York City. She said the city has 27,000 restaurants and that there are 12,000 participants in the outdoor dining plan. With each business allowed to occupy up to 400 square feet of roadway space, she said that translates to a total of 111 acres. By comparison, she noted, the entire footprint of East River Park plus Stuyvesant Cove equals just 50 acres.
Also speaking at Saturday’s rally, District Leader Vittoria Fariello, a candidate for state Senate, demanded that the Department of Transportation do a full and proper environmental impact study on the effects of the outdoor dining program.
The City Council will be holding just a single public hearing, this Tues., Feb. 8, at 10 a.m., on the city’s intent to make the pandemic-inspired outdoor dining plan permanent. CUEUP (Coalition United for Equitable Urban Policy) is encouraging concerned New Yorkers to register to testify against the plan.