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Shed the sheds! Open Restaurants opponents to march before Council hearing on making program permanent

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | The shed is about to hit the fan again… .

The City Council’s Committee on Worker Protection and Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises will hold a remote hearing on Tues., Feb. 8, starting at 10 a.m. on establishing a permanent outdoor dining program — a.k.a. the roadway dining sheds — and also stripping away all existing sidewalk cafe zoning regulations.

To testify by Zoom or phone, members of the public should sign up at least 24 hours in advance of the hearing. Click here to register.

Public testimony will be limited to two minutes per person.

People may also submit written testimony to the Council by uploading it at council.nyc.gov/testify  or by e-mailing it directly to testimony@council.nyc.gov. Written testimony will be accepted up to 72 hours after the hearing has been adjourned.

The hearing will be webcast live at council.nyc.gov/livestream. (See Virtual Room 1.)

Ahead of the Council hearing, the ad hoc group CUEUP (Coalition United for Equitable Urban Policy) is sponsoring a “Chuck the Sheds” march and rally to protest the Permanent Open Restaurants program.

On Sat., Feb. 5, demonstrators will take to the streets in a brunch-hour march through the dining “yurt”-clogged blocks of Greenwich Village. They’ll speak out about the negative impacts that they say the Open Restaurants program is having on city dwellers — and will continue to have if the emergency pandemic program is made permanent.

The march will kick off at noon from Father Demo Square, at Sixth Avenue and Bleecker Street, and head to Washington Square Park, concluding with a rally under the arch. CUEUP says the event will draw protesters from across the city.

Coalition member Stuart Waldman, a member of the Bedford-Downing Block Association, said, “We’ve outed Permanent Open Restaurants as a program that’s not a public benefit, but a public nuisance, a program that generates intolerable noise, street drunkenness, rat infestations and mounds of trash, a program that impedes pedestrian traffic while snarling street traffic. It’s time the mayor and City Council listen to the valid concerns of their constituents about this program.”

New York City’s community boards rejected a citywide zoning change for sidewalk cafes — the linchpin of the Permanent Open Restaurants program — by a resounding 62 percent to 38 percent margin, according to CUEUP.

Coalition member Melissa Kralich said, “We’re trying to get elected officials and city agencies to abandon their top-down strategy in developing this program, and work from the ground up, in true partnership with residential communities. That’s where the people affected by this program live, work, walk and ride — at ground level.”

26 Comments

  1. LES3025 LES3025 February 4, 2022

    These people don’t want to be “partners” in developing a permanent program. They just want Open Restaurants gone and replaced with cars. They have been against it at every stage, often with shifting and nonsensical reasons, and have never offered anything constructive.

    Open Restaurants is good. The actual concerns about things like noise and the conditions of sheds will be improved by making the program permanent. The program needs real guidelines and enforcement standards and the operators need the certainty in order to invest in their structures.

    • jess jess February 4, 2022

      lES3025
      I used to bike but not so much recently.
      It really is shocking to see the bicycle lobby-real estate industry connection in NYC, whereby real estate capitalism is supported by the so-called “progressive” bicycle lobby.
      And based on some surveys in progress, CitiBikers are big users of e-commerce delivery, Uber and flying.
      So it isn’t just cars — us cyclists need to improve our carbon footprint

      • Jess’ brain Jess’ brain February 4, 2022

        lmao cyclists need to improve their carbon footprint, stfu

      • LES3025 LES3025 February 4, 2022

        I have no idea what point you’re trying to make. But individuals changing their personal carbon footprint is meaningless and also has nothing to do with Open Restaurants.

    • Kibby Rose Kibby Rose February 5, 2022

      Making it permanent will not fix the problems. The sheds are already built. It is too late for guidelines and enforcement standards. I would choose parked cars any day over these eyesores that crowd sidewalks, create too much noise, and have ruined the look of the West Village.

      • LES3025 LES3025 February 5, 2022

        Poor quality sheds are largely because no one will invest much when they don’t know if it will be permanent. And the recent decline in quality is in significant part because de Blasio pulled the rug out from under them by banning propane heaters, meaning most couldn’t be used in the winter and were effectively abandoned. Making it permanent will fix this. If you want cars, move to the suburbs.

    • john sullivan john sullivan February 6, 2022

      FYI: The majority of residents in protest do not have cars like myself. This is about
      a land grab for one industry without community input. Enforcement, as with most
      issues in NYC, is very difficult to have. Restaurant owners in the end will have higher
      costs rental-wise from landlords if they are geographically lucky. Those restaurants without
      public space that can be used will be losers and mom-and-pop stores with public space will be forced out. Enforcement standards? Very naive.

      • LES3025 LES3025 February 6, 2022

        There has been extensive community input. Every community board had a hearing on it. I remember the one in CB3 where the crowd shouted down the public employees and jeered at their neighbors who support outdoor dining. The city has been soliciting input through other avenues for months. There’s an opportunity for public testimony on Tuesday. There have been numerous public opinion polls. You’re just mad that the city has listened to the vast majority of its citizens who agree with the program and isn’t listening to you.

  2. Henry Scott Henry Scott February 4, 2022

    Let Us Eat! On the Street!

    Clean up the dining sheds, don’t remove them. I’d rather live in a city where people are happily dining outside than one where the sidewalks are lined with parked polluting automobiles.

    • LL LL February 4, 2022

      Henry Scott,
      Actually many restaurant owners/managers actually drive in to Manhattan – and park. (They don’t live in Manhattan, have long hours and sometimes need to transport supplies.)
      Are you ok with that?

      BTW I am not a fan of cars and don’t drive.

      • LES3025 LES3025 February 4, 2022

        Is your suggestion to let the restaurant owners and managers decide whether to keep the sheds or revert to parking? I have a pretty strong suspicion on which way that would go…

  3. LL LL February 4, 2022

    Covid has been catastrophic for so many, but thankfully is moving from pandemic to endemic.
    Schools are back, people are on the subway, people are flying, etc.

    The restaurant street sheds had a temporary purpose – but need to end.
    Unbelievable to see the restaurant shed results: garbage, rats, ambulances and fire trucks that can’t get through…

    In my neighborhood, so many restaurants have more shed space than actually inside. The sheds have been enclosed, made the space into luxury settings for the upscale diners. And incredibly the restaurants move their garbage in front of other buildings!

    The restaurant owners are making a fortune – and enjoying their multimillion dollar homes in the Hamptons.

    In the meantime, small shops and businesses have gotten no help from the City due to Covid, not even rent protection.

  4. Constance Licuta Constance Licuta February 4, 2022

    On-street car parking? I am a handicapped senior and need my car to get to work, visit doctors, care for my grandchild. What is wrong with on-street parking? What about resident parking permits like other cities have? The war on personal cars is ridiculous when we pay taxes, registration fees, and contribute actively to the local economy as residents. There is an on-street bike rack on my corner that never has a bike on it but it takes up 3 parking spots. There are no parking zones in the Village that serve no purpose. Bike lanes are not respected and used properly.

  5. Greg Masters Greg Masters February 4, 2022

    I am pro-shed. I understand car owners are peeved. But, it’s a pleasure to witness the aliveness of the streets, let alone experience the delight of having a meal outdoors.

    • Resident Resident February 4, 2022

      Framing this as solely a parking issue is the straw man argument promoted by the hospitality industry. The Open Restaurants Program is ill-conceived and has not been properly evaluated as to its impact on the quality of life for residents. The rush to make it permanent is what has actual residents up in arms.

  6. Rocco Rocco February 4, 2022

    They should all be removed! I’m sick of dodging the rats that are living under the floorboards! It’s like living in a perpetual Feast of San Gennaro!!!

  7. Peter Feld Peter Feld February 4, 2022

    I’m normally aligned with the folks opposing the sheds — no to Soho/Noho upzoning, yes to defending East River Park — but the shed opponents are 100% wrong here. We cannot allow cars to carry any weight in this conversation, or in land-use policy. Cars need to be eliminated, they are choking the planet. Anything we can do to make NYC less drivable and less parkable needs to be done ASAP, likewise congestion pricing, and dedicated bus streets and protected bike lanes everywhere. As for these sheds, they are a great improvement to street life in the East Village where I live, and they sustain our local businesses and their employees. Six curbside tables of diners is worth more than free parking for two cars.

    • LES3025 LES3025 February 4, 2022

      Does this make you reconsider whether these folks’ opposition to the SoHo/NoHo rezoning and the East Side Coastal Resiliency project (not to mention bike and bus lanes) is similarly driven by wrongheaded, regressive self-interest?

      • Peter Feld Peter Feld February 7, 2022

        No, because on East River Park it’s the cars that have been favored over people. If we were willing to block or permanently shut the FDR Drive, as we should, there would be no need to destroy the park. I’d say those folks are inconsistent and I’m consistently anti-car. The East Sice Coastal Resiliency project is a giveaway to contactors and developers who want a West Street situation on the East Side. But appreciate your comment.

        • LES3025 LES3025 February 7, 2022

          I’m with you that the FDR Drive should be closed and torn down, and if your anti-ESCR stance is from a place of anti-car, then I won’t argue with you. But the SoHo/NoHo rezoning opponents have also fairly consistently opposed plans to pedestrianize large parts of SoHo. This newspaper covered it (https://thevillagesun.com/soho-residents-close-ranks-against-open-streets). So they are not good allies to you in your efforts to limit cars.

  8. Carol from East 5th Street Carol from East 5th Street February 4, 2022

    Car haters just chill. Why does everyone think car parking is the issue big issue? The sheds are awful! Number one is the noise. Do any of you live in a building with a shed in front of your window? The noise, especially during the warmer months is unbearable. Indoor restaurants have four walls to mute the noise but the noise from the sheds (both talking, which gets louder as the evening progresses and the music) is LOUD and travels up. The garbage and number of rats have doubled. Waiters carrying food across the bike/e-bike/scooter lanes are a disaster just waiting to happen. At night the sheds become a camp for the homeless (wouldn’t be a problem if they didn’t pee, poop and leave there garbage there) and for drug addicts, who leave the discarded needles. And lastly many of the sheds look like Third World shanties and do not improve the look of the neighborhood at all. And who’s going to remove the abandoned sheds that now dot the landscape?

  9. Abby Abby February 6, 2022

    I am disappointed that my “shed” was used as the lead photo. It has no graffiti, doesn’t have music speakers, isn’t 100% enclosed (only three walls was the rule, which I followed, and that many others have not), I close it down at a reasonable hour, and is super cute. People stop to pose in it all the time. It doesn’t get much use in the cold temperatures because I can’t afford electric heating (which would be pretty pointless without a fourth wall anyway). I’m fine with whatever decisions are made but I feel sad that, with so many serious eyesores, my sweet little “shed” was singled out as being so terrible.

    • J F Hyer J F Hyer February 6, 2022

      Hey Abby,
      I love your double-hipped-roof love-shack. And what a great color.
      It’s photogenic – what can ya do? No such thing as bad publicity??
      Best of luck,
      JF Hyer

    • LES3025 LES3025 February 6, 2022

      I think your shed is great!

    • Choresh Wald Choresh Wald February 7, 2022

      Thank you Abby for putting the Pagoda. We appreciate it every day walking by. I really hope you will be able to create an outdoor dining area for the cafe across the street.

  10. Forever Villager Forever Villager February 9, 2022

    I love the idea of increasing outdoor dining in our city. But I don’t think keeping the makeshift structures and the current distribution of them is the way toward a successful program. In a town with an extremely narrow margin of space and functionality (pre-pandemic sidewalks were already tight with pedestrians, and garbage collection was challenging, etc) it seems like we should make a fair, thought-out and cohesive PLAN for outdoor dining, not just default to keeping what was created during an emergency situation. Then we will end up with something that genuinely enhances our city and all of our residents. If our city is going to survive, we will have to move away from allowing personal self-interest — whether because someone owns a restaurant or because someone else needs more parking spots — to drive decisions that affect all of our community.

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