Outdoor restaurant structures are here to stay, but Brooklynites have mixed feelings

Mayor Eric Adams said the Open Restaurants program — which allowed restaurants to build outdoor seating on city streets and sidewalks in the wake of COVID — would become a permanent part of the city’s cityscape. town.

For restaurants and their customers, dining sheds were a welcome new addition. Not only have they provided a much-needed financial boost to restaurateurs, following significant losses due to the COVID lockdown; they also offered pandemic-weary residents the opportunity to be outdoors, socialize and dine safely at their favorite watering holes.

But now that the pandemic is over and circumstances have changed, so have some people’s views on whether the program should continue.

For example, a cohort of block associations and neighborhood groups across the city have organized against the permanent plan and some Brooklyn residents contributed to a court case against the city to repeal the law that set the stage for the current Open Restaurant program before a permanent version took place.

Adams announced his plans for a permanent open restaurant program in front of an abandoned shed in Midtown last Thursday, adding that the abandoned sheds would be torn down after due process and fair warning. After the announcement, he put on his helmet and helped a demolition crew tear down the shed.

So far, the city has removed 25 unused sheds and is currently evaluating 37 more for removal, Adams said.

Sunday brunch at Peaches on Lewis Avenue is in full swing, with a line of people waiting for a table. Photo: Miranda Levingston for the BK Reader.

“These deserted dining sheds have become eyesores for neighbors and havens for rats, and we’re going to tear them down,” Adams said.

“And, with this initiative, we are also taking an essential step toward a permanent Open Restaurants program that all New Yorkers can be proud of every day.”

The new program

The Open Restaurants program began as an emergency executive order to keep restaurants open during the pandemic. Now that other emergency executive orders have ended, Adams is working to create a permanent open restaurant program by changing laws that regulate outdoor dining under non-emergency conditions.

If all the legal changes are successfully made in the coming months, the program could start accepting applications from restaurants as early as this winter.

The proposed scheme will be enforced by the Department of Transportation, instead of the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, which oversaw the sidewalk cafe scheme before the emergency order allowing outdoor dining across the city.

The perm program will have clearer design guidelines and be more strictly enforced, Adams said. Under the new program, restaurants would need a license agreement for sidewalk and pavement seating.

The guidelines would also regulate noise levels, outdoor heaters, structural design and guarantee 8 feet of sidewalk space for pedestrians, Adams said. The rules will also require city features, such as fire hydrants, signs, and bike and bus lanes, to remain safely accessible.

“I want to say it loud and clear: outdoor dining is here to stay,” Adams said.

Robert Camacho, the president of Brooklyn’s Community Board 4 which represents Bushwick, said he was against dining structures because of the way rats nested under the raised platforms and the party noises he heard during that he was trying to sleep.

“If they want to take chairs and umbrellas out front and then put them away at night, on their side of the property line on the sidewalk, we don’t mind,” said Camacho, a homeowner in Bushwick since 45 years old. , said. He is one of the plaintiffs to chase the city on the program.

“I was literally pushed into a 4ft A-frame sign with my stroller on Bedford Avenue because there were too many people passing by and the restaurant had sidewalk seating along the wall, on the sidewalk next to the sidewalk and a shed,” Shannon Phipps, a longtime Williamsburg resident, said. Phipps is another of applicants continue the city on the program.

In his Aug. 18 speech, Adams said the lawsuit slows down the process of regulating and enforcing the program.

“We also want to improve enforcement so restaurants are as successful as possible,” Adams said. “New Yorkers have a lot of different opinions, and we understand that. And their lawsuit against the city actually slows down the process of making the program sustainable.

word on the street

BK reader walk the streets of Crown Heights, Bed-Stuy and Bushwick to see what pedestrians think of the program and its upcoming changes.

Mazdak Jafaran on Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights.  Photo: Miranda Levingston for the BK Reader.
Mazdak Jafaran on Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights. Photo: Miranda Levingston for the BK Reader.

“The sheds are great — they might be one of the few good things that came out of the pandemic,” said Crown Heights resident Mazdak Jafaran. “The sheds contribute to the sustenance of our city and improve the quality of the urban environment. »

“I like it, I think it adds to the community instead of having cars parked in its place,” Lenay Johnson, who lives in Bushwick, said of the sheds. “The permanent extension of the program is excellent news. When our local businesses survive, it makes the community better.

Mark and Lenay Johnson on Starr Street in Bushwick.  Photo: Miranda Levingston.
Mark and Lenay Johnson on Starr Street in Bushwick. Photo: Miranda Levingston.

“It’s more relaxing to sit outside,” said Keith Terry. Terry has lived in Bed-Stuy for 35 years. “I’ve never had a bad experience eating out here. Everything went well, and it doesn’t affect my driving or parking at all either.

For some, they were in favor of some version of the outdoor dining program, provided that rats and litter were properly mitigated and other environmental factors were reassessed.

Phil and Adriana Heyward on Starr Street.  Photo: Miranda Levingston for the BK Reader.
Phil and Adriana Hayward on Starr Street. Photo: Miranda Levingston for the BK Reader.

“I think there are things that could be done better,” said Mark Johnson, who lives in Bushwick. “One of the nearby restaurants ends up being kind of a rat-infested, nasty place. There’s always a pile of trash with rats running around there.

“I was sitting outside at a restaurant on Irving, and I saw rats running around under the shed platform where we were sitting,” said Phil, who lives in Bushwick. “If you’re going to do this, make sure it’s a clean structure that’s maintained.”

Nadine Meyers on Lewis Avenue in Bed-Stuy.  Photo: Miranda Levingston for the BK Reader.
Nadine Meyers on Lewis Avenue in Bed-Stuy. Photo: Miranda Levingston for the BK Reader.

“There’s a combination of things that need to be reassessed,” said Nadine Meyers, who has lived in the Bed-Stuy area for 10 years.

“I’m a cyclist, and in some places where there are bike lanes it’s very difficult to maneuver, and even if I’m riding on a street that doesn’t have a bike lane, it’s just difficult. This program should be seasonal and open only in the spring and summer.

For more information on the permanent Open Restaurants program, click here. To notify authorities of abandoned sheds, call 311.