New York City to remove abandoned outdoor dining structures, Open Restaurants program here to stay

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Friday, August 19, 2022
NYC to remove abandoned outdoor dining structures
Eric Adams announced a new initiative focused on regulating outdoor dining sheds in the city's Open Restaurants program and removing abandoned sheds.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced a new initiative focused on regulating outdoor dining sheds in the city's Open Restaurants program and removing abandoned sheds.

The mayor reiterated "outdoor dining is here to stay," while acknowledging that abandoned or dangerous outdoor dining structures must be quickly torn down.

He made the announcement in front of an unused shed in Midtown on Thursday morning before putting on his work gloves and helping to take the structure down.

He echoed the concerns of those who have called the abandoned sheds an eyesore and neighbors who say they have ruined their quality of life.

"When a dining shed is no longer in use, it's abandoned and it's a safety hazard, we have to tear it down," Adams said. "It can't be a safe haven for rats, it can't be a safe haven for illegal behavior. It has to be a place to allow people to enjoy dining."

This week, the task force is taking down 25 abandoned sheds that should have been already removed by the restaurant when it went out of business. Since the restaurant failed to remove the shed, the city will.

The city has already pinpointed another 37 with problems.

Eyewitness News received exclusive photos of a collapsed roof on an outdoor dining shed that smashed a car window on Ludlow Street.

"I was thinking if anyone was standing under there, I can't imagine what would have happened, people are always standing under there," said David Wang, a Lower East Side resident.

The city is also focusing on multiple "egregious violators" for cleanliness and safety. Those restaurants have been given multiple warnings, and are being notified that their sheds will be taken down.

The shed will be held by the city for 90 days, and if it is not claimed, it will be donated.

On Wednesday, Eyewitness News spoke exclusively with Mayor Eric Adams on the issue that has become so divisive for New Yorkers.

"Outside dining saved almost 100,000 jobs," Adams said.

Sheds were added to the menu during COVID when restaurants were suffering and told to socially distance tables. Except in spacious venues, that was not possible. So, restaurant owners got the secret ingredient of a lifetime: they were allowed to spill out onto the street.

Adams said outdoor dining was vital during the pandemic and will continue to be a big part of the industry moving forward.

When sheds popped up during the pandemic, they were done largely without regulations. Adams says there will now be regulations that restaurants will need to follow from here on out.

He is asking people to take photos and send them to 311 so city officials can assess the structures in question.

Andrew Rigie, executive director of NYC Hospitality Alliance, released the following statement:

"It's great news that Mayor Adams announced the city will remove abandoned outdoor dining structures that shuttered during the pandemic and will focus on revitalizing or removing dilapidated ones as we transition out of the temporary emergency program that saved countless small businesses and jobs. We look forward to working with the city to develop a permanent outdoor dining system that will be beautiful and sustainable for the future."

However, critics maintain the emergency program was put in place during the pandemic, and now with no emergency, everything must be reviewed.

"The program needs to be gradually curtailed in the last days of the summer, the city has to do an environmental study of the permitting program," attorney Michael Sussman said. "That study has to include public input of the genuine nature and then a program to be administered."

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