BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | After the city and state were slapped with a lawsuit to immediately halt “lawless” outdoor dining, Mayor Adams stood firmly behind the divisive program, declaring that “nightlife is a multibillion-dollar industry.”
Last Friday, a group of three-dozen frustrated residents from around the city filed suit, charging that the Open Restaurants program — launched during the depths of the COVID pandemic — should now end A.S.A.P. since there is no longer any health emergency to justify it.
Indeed, in March, Adams ended the Key to NYC vaccine requirement, which mandated that anyone over the age of 5 show proof of vaccination to enter an array of indoor venues, including restaurants.
Open Restaurants has only been allowed to continue functioning due to the constant renewal of emergency orders by both the governor and mayor. Except for Open Restaurants, however, all other pandemic-related emergency orders and programs in New York have ceased, according to the lawsuit.
Yet, speaking at a press conference Monday, Adams, when queried about the lawsuit, stood behind Open Restaurants. He said he’s “a big supporter” of the program, adding that some restaurants are still hurting financially from the pandemic and need the program.
“The question was about outdoor dining and the lawsuit,” he said. “I’m a big supporter of outdoor dining. As it has been reported previously over and over again, the nightlife is a multibillion-dollar industry. And our restaurant owners have gone through a very difficult period. Some of them are still back in their payments. And whatever I can do to help our restaurant industry that employs dishwashers, waiters, busboys and -girls, this is an important industry and it is an indicator of our city. And so the lawsuit is going to play itself out. But I’m a supporter of the outdoor dining.”
However, the mayor added, “I think we need to modify it because some of the outdoor dining locations have become a hazard. They have become places that’s not suitable. And I think there’s a way to modify to standardize what the structure should look like, and they have to be used. It can’t be used for storage. It can’t be used for all other things. But I’m a supporter of the outdoor dining. And I believe it was a lifeline for the restaurant industry.”
The lawsuit, filed by attorney Michael H. Sussman, notes that the mayor’s and governor’s justification for continuing Open Restaurants on an emergency basis has shifted — from health and a need for social distancing to economic reasons.
“In recent months,” the suit states, “[the city’s and state’s] chief executive officers and other leaders have relied upon an economic rationale for extending [Open Restaurants]. However, such a rationale does not provide a sufficient legal basis for an emergency order in New York absent the existence of an underlying public health or natural emergency, neither of which now exists.
“In reality, no public health emergency exists,” the suit argues, “and, therefore, there is no premise for [Open Restaurants].”
Another day in Hell’s Kitchen and the reality of zero regulation outdoor dining. pic.twitter.com/B0TczRBvwM
— Leslie Boghosian Murphy (@LeslieForNYC) August 1, 2022
New York State and City have suspended or abandoned all other pandemic emergency orders and programs — including test-and-trace, vaccine and mask mandates, home food deliveries for the elderly and shut-ins, and free hotel rooms for those with COVID who need to self-isolate, eviction protections and enhanced unemployment benefits. However, the plaintiffs charge, emergency orders “continue to be selectively issued for the benefit of the restaurant and nightlife industries.”
Earlier this year, the City Council was poised to move ahead with crafting legislation to make Open Restaurants permanent. But that effort was abruptly paused indefinitely in March when an earlier lawsuit against outdoor dining brought by community residents, and again represented by Sussman, was victorious in State Supreme Court. Ruling on that case, Justice Frank Nervo said the city had failed to do a proper environmental impact study for the massive program, which has spawned 12,000 dining sheds around the city, many of them clustered in Downtown Manhattan. The Adams administration is currently appealing that earlier ruling.
While the mayor is a fan of outdoor dining — previously gushing that it makes New York City “just like Paris” — the lawsuit plaintiffs and many residents, for their part, complain that the roadway sheds cause noise, trash, rats, public urination, a loss of parking and curbside access and make it harder for emergency vehicles to navigate streets and respond to incidents.
In March, the LES Dwellers made a video spoofing a beret-wearing and mustachioed Adams and Ydanis Rodriguez, the Department of Transportation comissioner, eating at an outdoor dining shed as rats nearby feasted on discarded junk food and smelly cheese. Shown serving the two as a waiter was Andrew Rigie, the head of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, the restaurant industry’s main lobbying group.
Many are not wheelchair accessible.
Another shill for the nightlife industry. When, oh when, we will get a mayor or councilperson who is for New Yorkers, not developers, not restaurant owners, but the people who actually LIVE here???
Outdoor Dining should be limited to 10% of a business’s indoor dining capacity to make it fair to all. An establishment that is capable of accommodating a Sidewalk Cafe, should not also have a Street Shed (or three & four as here in Chelsea) — choose one or the other!
This is a much better idea.
Mayor Swagger is trying to generate campaign points by claiming to be pro-business as well as pro-“public safety” by removing parking spaces and not allowing residents to have cars.
We have always had outdoor dining in NYC…just not the kind where restaurants can just take up space in the street.
Oh, and to the imminent dumb-dumb, anti-car foot soldiers, drivers pay quite a lot for licensing, registration and inspection, among other things, so, yes, they DO contribute and should be able to park if parking is available since parking in NYC is for residents and their guests.
Outdoor dining/activity should end at 10 p.m.to allow for dinner. It’s the loud drinkers and partiers that cause issues for people living above. Not sure why clothing stores and housewares, which also suffered, aren’t given the same “free rent” opportunities. The sheds cannot be helping the rat problem, which is out of control.
Funny how the Department of Health was left out of regulating the shanties. Apparently rats and filth is allowed on them but if they were inside the restaurant the business would be ordered to close.