Updated 12:27 p.m.
Per CB3: Depending on the attendance, seating may be limited due to social distancing. The meeting will also be live-streamed here. Comments may also be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. to be considered for the September vote.
City officials from the Department of City Planning and Department of Transportation are exploring an overhaul of zoning and permitting regulations to allow the Open Restaurants program to become permanent.
As Crain's reported, the city had to suspend roughly 20 zoning rules when Mayor de Blasio announced the program in June 2020.
The Open Restaurants text amendment entered public review on June 21. This proposal is the first of a series of changes to create the permanent Open Restaurants program. Per the city:
In addition to the zoning amendment, the City will move administration of the sidewalk café program from the Department of Consumer Affairs and Workforce Protection to DOT, streamline the application process and create rules for a permanent roadway dining program. Altogether, restaurants will have a single agency to go to apply for outdoor dining, with a clear set of design guidelines on what is allowed.
The proposed zoning text amendment would affect every community district within the City. The proposed action would remove the definitions of sidewalk cafes from the Zoning Resolution and any mentions of them in special districts, as well as other clean-up text to fully remove any zoning prohibitions related to the operation of sidewalk cafes.
Tonight, there's an in-person presentation, discussion and public testimony at a joint Community Board 3 Committee meeting. (See below for the meeting details.) As part of the public review process, the CB3 Committees will produce a resolution, which the full board will vote on in September.
Several community groups are encouraging participation. According to an email yesterday from the East Village Community Coalition (EVCC):
"This meeting is your opportunity to share your concerns about whether/how this program should continue, and how it might be improved, while the details are still being hashed out. If this privatization of public space is to become permanent, residents and business owners should have input."The EVCC also calls attention to other issues that they see with the program.
This emergency program, while critical for struggling restaurants, has created untenable noise and sanitation issues for neighborhoods with high concentrations of eating and drinking establishments:
• amplified music, smoking and crowds below residents' windows
• bags of trash and discarded containers exacerbating rat problems
• choked paths for pedestrians and emergency vehicles
• fire safety concerns about the use and storage of propane heaters
None of these issues are readily resolved through the usual channels, leaving very little recourse for residents or business owners. This has not changed, even as problems worsen with increasing traffic as the City reopens.In addition, several neighbor groups — LES Dwellers, Orchard Street Block Association, the Chinatown Core and the East Fifth Street Block Association — are urging residents to voice any concerns about the Open Restaurants program...
In many areas, the eating and drinking sheds have become severely problematic. As such, we are adamantly opposed to Outdoor Dining Sheds becoming a permanent fixture in NYC. We appreciate that these sheds were a lifeline for the hospitality industry during the pandemic and allowed residents a safe place to social distance.
Since COVID restrictions have been lifted, we think it is time for the emergency dining sheds to be retired, and the sidewalk cafe process is reinstated regarding alfresco dining.
However, you feel about the Open Restaurants program, no public input or proper environmental impact study was commissioned. Instead, the city rammed the sheds through behind closed doors with little to no oversight, calling it an unbridled success with few issues to resolve.
Last week, Gov. Cuomo signed legislation extending the usage of municipal spaces for restaurants through the middle of next year.
Tonight's in-person Committee meeting starts at 6:30 at the Boys Club of New York, 287 E. 10th St. at Avenue A. You can find a copy of the presentation at this link.