7 On Your Side: Big win for landmark New York City restaurant in Citi Bike battle

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Thursday, July 23, 2020
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Nina Pineda has more on the big win for the 100-year-old Gene's Restaurant.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- For the last month, the owner of a 100-year-old New York City eatery has been pleading for a bike rack to be relocated so he could open up more outdoor seating and help save his restaurant amid the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wednesday, he got good news.

Gene's Restaurant in the West Village was close to bankruptcy, not able to have outdoor dining because of eight Citi Bike docking stations that blocked their access to the street out front.

But after 7 On Your Side advocated for the landmark restaurant -- a cause that was joined by actress Sarah Jessica Parker -- Mayor Bill de Blasio announced changes that would immediately help save the business.

De Blasio announced the city would be removing 20 bike docking stations by end of the week to accommodate Gene's and an adjacent restaurant.

The bikes will be moved to the end of the street and will remain there until October 31, when outdoor dining changes are slated to end.

When Parker, a longtime patron of Gene's, shared the 7 On Your Side story last week on her Instagram account, her post was liked almost 40,000 times.

"I think we are seeing it's the small business and the restaurants that really identify our special place in New York, and we want to make sure that we are supportive and see our city return to its vibrant, dazzling self," Parker said. "So thank you Nina, thank you 7 On Your Side, and I'm sure that we will, because of your advocacy and cooperation, we will see things return to a memory we all want to relive."

Also in the next week, the city will evaluate whether Gene's block will be added to its Open Restaurants on Open Streets initiative. If that happens, the city would close the block on weekends in order to enable the restaurant to have additional outdoor seating in the street.

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Officials said the city wants to be clear that their rules prohibiting the removal of docking stations still stands, but this was a decision made regarding this restaurant's individual case.

"With the seating in the street, I could put about four more tables there, and that's the equivalent of a station," owner David Ramirez said. "That would mean I could actually hire somebody back."

His dad started as a waiter at Gene's after emigrating from Spain. He then bought the place in 1979.

"This is the American Dream for my family," Ramirez said.

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7 On Your Side flagged Lyft, which owns Citi Bike, the City Council and the DOT, and sent them Gene's Restaurant's diagram for proposed socially distant seating, along with photos of the obstruction.

Councilman Corey Johnson at the time vowed to keep working with the DOT to find a workable solution.

"Our small businesses are hurting right now, and the city should be doing everything we can to help," Johnson said. "Outdoor dining is a lifeline to the small businesses we love and want to see survive, and we should be willing to get creative to make it work for as many restaurants as possible."

City Hall official Mitchell Schwartz said New York City has received over 8,200 Open Restaurants participants in under a month.

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