Photos by Stacie Joy
On Tuesday night, officials from the Department of City Planning and Department of Transportation were on hand at a joint committee meeting of Community Board 3 as part of a public review process to make permanent the Open Restaurants program. (You can find a copy of the presentation at this link.)
More than an estimated 90 people packed into a room at the Boys Club of New York on 10th Street and Avenue A... while more waited outside... (the meeting was also streaming live)...
And then came the main event, which lasted nearly two hours. (CB3 needed to be out of the room by 9 p.m.)
Here's a quick take from Stacie:
It was HIGHLY CONTENTIOUS. It was supposed to be an 85-person cap but the place was packed and there was still a line outside. The DOT presentation drew a lot of negative attention from the crowd, who were frustrated with their inability to speak.
The DOT speech was interrupted constantly with claims of a filibuster and frustration that the community wasn't given time to speak. When they finally were given time, each person was given one-minute. Everyone was yelling and it was a mess.
"This Isn't Paris!" East Village Community Board Gets Heated Over Outdoor Dining
"This whole program is going to turn our area into an open-air alcohol zone," echoed David Crane, a longtime CB3 member. One resident said he'd been forced to listen to "'Happy Birthday' sung outside my window 20 times a day," as others shouted that "this isn't Paris!"
While local business owners were largely absent from the meeting, they too expressed anger with the DOT's handling of the program. Moshe Schulman, a managing partner of Kindred on 6th Street, said the agency had conducted a "sweep" just prior to the meeting, handing out citations for offenses such as being too close to a tree and blocking a "no parking" sign.
He was given just 24 hours to address the violations, which he described as "ridiculous and inaccurate." "People think we’re done with COVID and everything is all great," Shulman told Gothamist. “We’re just starting to get on our feet and try to normalize service.”• Streetsblog
First Salvos Fired as de Blasio’s ‘Permanent’ Dining Sheds Begin the Community Board Process
There was plenty of talk of compromise and coexistence from the crowd of 90, but many attendees went nuclear, demanding no outdoor dining at all, denouncing struggling restaurants and bars as greedy land-grabbers, and, in one case, waving signs inspired by George Orwell's classic Dystopian novel: "1984: War is Peace. 2021: Residential is commercial."
One opponent was overheard outside the meeting comparing their struggle to that of Martin Luther King Jr. One speaker declared — to a room where more than half the people were still wearing masks — that the pandemic was over, and therefore outdoor dining should be, too.• The Village Sun
East Siders are 'mad as hell' at meeting on Open Restaurants
Residents bemoaned the transformation of their community into what might be dubbed "Bourbon Street with yurts."
"I love my neighborhood!" one man started yelling emotionally over and over, also mentioning his "mental health," as others applauded supportively.
One woman, in an apparent reference to the Black Death of the 14th century, a bubonic plague spread by fleas piggybacking on rats, warned that the outdoor huts could breed a repeat. "These sheds are rat traps!" she declared. "We are feeding rats. We just went through a pandemic — we are inviting the next pandemic with these sheds."
You can watch the meeting for yourself right here... it begins at the 16-minute mark...
A young guy in his 30s named Sam Zimmerman stands up and speaks in support of the program — just the second person to do so thus far. He says the meeting's attendees are not representative of what the neighborhood actually thinks about streeteries, and that most people support the program. "People who are against it are people who come out to these things," he says, and is promptly booed. "There's 165,000 people in this district," he continues. "How many of them are here? People don't want to get screamed at by their neighbors." Everyone mumbles loudly, and someone yells "Where are you from?" and he responds: "From here!"
The Open Restaurants text amendment entered a public review on June 21. This proposal is the first of a series of changes to create the permanent Open Restaurants program launched in June 2020 to help the pandemic-stricken restaurant industry. 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.
As part of the public review process, the CB3 Committees will produce a resolution, which the full board will vote on in September. Comments from residents may also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. to be considered for the September vote.