Lower East Side Residents Sue the City to Stop Outdoor Dining Sheds
A group of New York City residents filed a lawsuit last week attempting to block the Open Restaurants program, initiated during the pandemic, from becoming permanent.
The 22 claimants cite quality-of-life concerns with the clogged streetscapes, and allegations that the Department of Transportation – the agency responsible for the street shanties – mishandled its review of the program. Claiming that the city’s determination of “no adverse impacts” to neighborhoods is in stark contrast to the reality on the ground in many high density areas.
“Notwithstanding its direct knowledge of the ongoing negative impact the temporary Open Restaurants program was having on neighborhoods and their residents, the DOT issued its negative declaration,” the suit states, referring to the June 18 decision stating that Open Restaurants did not cause a negative environmental effect, and could continue operating.
The plaintiffs – many of whom reside on the Lower East Side and West Village – are now demanding the judge to overturn this declaration in the 108-page complaint. Together with renowned civil right attorney Michael Sussman, they held a press conference last Thursday in the heart of Hell Square.
It’s also worth noting that the Department of City Planning and the DOT recently announced plans for a public engagement process to discuss Open Restaurants over the next six months. The city then plans to release new design guidelines for outdoor dining set-ups by the spring of 2022.
Not exclusive to New York City. Boston also implemented a similar program, but decided this month to end it after facing similar circumstances in the North End.
Indeed, the Boston Globe ran a story in late July headlined, “Some North End residents are fed up with outdoor dining.”
Residents at the time expressed anger over dining spaces clogging sidewalks, usurping parking spots, and tightening already narrow streets, and that they wanted a quick end to the pandemic-era rules that have allowed outdoor dining to sprout.