Group Rallying to ‘Chuck the Sheds’ from Open Restaurants
Open Restaurants, an emergency measure the city instituted when New York State prohibited indoor dining in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, remains on a path to permanence. But residents around the Five Boroughs are rallying against the plan, citing loss of quality-of-life through noise, trash heaps, rats, fire hazards, and blocked sidewalks.
The Coalition United for Equitable Urban Policy – an alliance of neighborhood and block associations, organizations, businesses, and residents – organized a protest action for tomorrow afternoon to shed light on the blight. It starts at noon at Father Demo Square for a march to the Washington Square Arch, where there will be speakers supporting removal of sheds from the streetscape.
Promoted by former Mayor Bill de Blasio, and supported by the hospitality industry, the program was conceived to ease the path for food establishments to serve customers on sidewalks and curbside shanties. Hearings were held at community boards throughout the city, resulting in an overall rejection by 62% to 38% margin. A group of 23 citizens, mostly in Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side, also filed a lawsuit against the city in New York Supreme Court, claiming the city bypassed long-standing zoning rules and is not considering the program’s long-term effects.
Open Restaurants was a lifeline for food establishments when customers were prohibited from dining inside. Detractors now say, however, that the sheds are an extension of bars’ indoor spaces. Effectively leading to noise, excess trash and the rats that feed, traffic and honking horns, and the overall loss of sidewalks. The structures also pose a problem to emergency responders like firefighters by obstructing and narrowing vehicular lanes.