Community Board 12 Casts its Vote to Deny Making Open Restaurants Permanent

Community Board 12 Casts its Vote to Deny Making Open Restaurants Permanent

By Yehudit Garmaise

     New York City wants to make outdoor dining a permanent part of the city’s urban landscape, and to do so, the Department of City Planning and Department of Transportation have proposed a text amendment to the city’s current zoning laws that would make thousands of city restaurants eligible to create sidewalk cafés. 

     Earlier tonight, however, Community Board 12 voted 23 to 4 to deny the amendment that would allow zoning changes, which would remove geographic restrictions on where outdoor dining spaces and structures can be located within New York City.

     After having to ban indoor dining as a result of the COVID pandemic, New York City suspended existing outdoor dining regulations, including zoning location rules that usually prevent restaurants from serving diners in roadways.

     Open Restaurants not only was an emergency program that gave nearly 11,000 restaurants the opportunity to stay in business during many lockdowns, but the program also allowed many New Yorkers to dine out during the pandemic.

    When the board brought up the city’s Open Restaurants program for discussion, one member pointed out that the outdoor structures seem to attract “bad actors who are going to be a detriment to the community.”

   Another board member pointed out that homeless people sometimes  encamp in the makeshift spaces and cause difficulties with local residents.

    A third Community Board member said that “the real problem with Open Restaurants is that restaurants take space away from available street parking, when they create outdoor dining spaces on roadways.”

    “Even when restaurants utilize space on the sidewalk for outdoor dining, the tables and chairs provide blockage to the very narrow sidewalks on which pedestrians and strollers need to pass,” another participant pointed out, before only a handful of board members disagreed. “I don’t think it is good for our community.”

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