NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Outdoor dining could become permanent in New York City.
Structures on streets and sidewalks became a lifeline for restaurants struggling during the pandemic.
Now, the city’s planning and transportation departments have launched a citywide public engagement process for design rules on permanent outdoor setups.
The guidelines will be released in the spring, and the application process is expected to start late next year.
Outdoor dining structures popped up during the pandemic to became a common city sight.
“This is a great, great venue and, you know, you get the breeze,” patron Pauline Sanders said.
Now, the city is seeking input about keeping them around for years to come.
But some people are saying not so fast.
New York Assembly member Deborah Glick, who supported the idea at first, said she is worried it easily gets out of control.
“We are in a mixed-use neighborhood where people literally are living on the second floor over the noise, the congestion, the smells,” Glick told CBS2’s Dave Carlin on Wednesday.
Glick was joined by others who say the city needs a more balanced approach, and oversight, where structures might block emergency vehicles or crowded sidewalk dining might generate too much noise, too many rodents, and filth.
“Are we saying that the sidewalks belong only to one industry?” Manhattan Community Board 1 Chair Tammy Meltzer said. “How can you mitigate the noise for people who live upstairs at night, and the smoke and the congestion?”
“We have to stop this now, no zoning test amendment. If you want real recovery, involve the people who live here,” said Leslie Clark of the West Village Residents Association.
As the city review process moves forward, restaurant owners and patrons weighed in that this program saves lives, with safer spaces and saves livelihoods, including an estimated 100,000 restaurant jobs.
“In this industry, in general, we would not have been able to survive without outdoor dining,” said Peter Staley, general manager of Westville Hell’s Kitchen, adding when asked if he’s in favor of continued outdoor dining, “We are in support.”
“I think what outdoor dining has done for the city throughout the course of the pandemic has been amazing,” lower Manhattan resident Scott Weiss added.
The public is being urged to speak out to city planners and the DOT, because what CBS2 is hearing is that to have a voice heard you need a seat at the table.
The proposals for extended outdoor dining must be voted on by the City Council after a series of hearings.