City Council, Vote No on the Open Restaurants Text Amendments! [OP-ED]

Posted on: February 24th, 2022 at 6:50 am by

Photo: Eddie Panta

The following editorial was written by Diem Boyd, president of the Lower East Side Dwellers block association.

There is Better Way for Our Public Streets Than Getting In Bed With the NYC Hospitality Alliance.

“We have been hoodwinked, bamboozled, led astray, run amuck, and flat out deceived.”

The fight in the street is not about car parking versus eating and drinking sheds. That is the distraction to make us look away while our public lands are given away.

Permanent Open Restaurants is a land grab that privatizes public space for one business industry, commercial landlords, and the customers who can afford the $20 burger and $15 cocktail.

For perspective, in zip code 10002, the median individual income is $20K with a poverty rate that hovers near 30%. This means that many people are left out of the Department of Transportation’s newly imagined “public” streets and sidewalks.

What’s going on here is so apparent. The powerful hospitality lobby is manipulating the Covid crisis to deregulate and privatize our streets and sidewalks to maximize profits, produce market concentration and strip the public of their “right to the city.”

Photo: New York Shitty

The Permanent Open Restaurant program is predatory neoliberal policy that extracts from the public and exploits the poor and working class. Like all market-based recovery strategies, the rules and advantages are created by and for the owners of the capital.

This economic power creates vast political power, which limits the government from imposing rules or regulations or offsetting the needs of the public.

The fact that most of the City Council appear in lockstep with the NYC Hospitality Alliance on this path to the “great” economic recovery shows the sad state of our democracy.

The NYC Hospitality Alliance worked actively against paid sick leave. Unapologetically opposes a living wage. Fights against workers’ rights, protections, health care, and wage theft recovery legislation.

The “100K jobs” that NYC Hospitality Alliance insists outdoor dining “saved” mainly were low-wage jobs primarily held by workers of color—one of the hardest-hit groups economically from the pandemic. Their misfortune directly results from NYC Hospitality Alliance’s years of blocking or chipping away at pro-worker and fair wage policies.

Equitable economic recovery from COVID-19 for New York City can’t repeat the lousy economics of past market-based recovery efforts. Economic recovery for all means putting collective action over private interest.

When the pandemic emergency order ends, so should the Open Restaurant program.

Time to give the streets back to the people.

The time is now to redefine public space equity.

And, it’s about time for bold, imaginative leadership to reimagine and remake the streets and sidewalks for all.

City Council, please vote no on the text amendments!

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