New lawsuit seeks to end New York City outdoor dining program, claiming it causes noise, trash

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Tuesday, August 2, 2022
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A new lawsuit claims outdoor dining sheds in New York City make it difficult to navigate the streets and sidewalks. Josh Einiger has the story.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- A new lawsuit filed by 35 people who live in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx seeks to end New York City's outdoor dining program.

The suit blames the Open Restaurants program, which was implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, for excessive noise, traffic, and garbage.

It also claims outdoor dining sheds make it difficult to navigate the city's streets and sidewalks.

The program was meant to help restaurants and bars during the pandemic by allowing them to expand seating outdoors. But the suit says "in fact, there is no public health emergency in New York City and, as shown above, there is no existing regulatory infrastructure in place tailored to respond to any such emergency."

It claims the Open Restaurants plan causes "increased and excessive noise, traffic congestion, garbage and uncontrolled rodent populations, the blocking of sidewalks and roadways, causing petitioners and others to be unable to safely navigate the city's street and sidewalks, and a diminution of available parking upon which some" of those suing depend.

"Now some restaurant owners are using the sheds for storage, not for outdoor dining...some are filled with garbage," Brooklyn Community Board 4 Chair Robert Camacho said in an affidavit with Friday's suit. "Some are filled with garbage. Some have kids in there getting high."

Michael Sussman, a lawyer for the residents who filed the lawsuit, said the Temporary Open Restaurant program was implemented without public input.

Asked about the lawsuit, Mayor Eric Adams said, "I'm a big supporter of outdoor dining."

He added that "some of the outdoor dining locations have become a hazard...they can't be used for storage, they can't be used for all other things."

Even some restaurateurs agree.

"I think we need to find a happy balance," restaurateur Michael Shatzberg said.

Shatzberg is a partner in several places on Park Avenue South, where even at dinner time on Monday night, not even half his outdoor tables were full.

He says the lesson here is that New Yorkers want to eat outside, but they don't have to be in makeshift cabins on the street, if the city only relaxed its restrictions on sidewalk dining.

"At this point if they were to say you can't have it anymore, but we will redo the rules for this, that would be great," Shatzberg said.

The City Council passed legislation in February to make outdoor dining permanent.

That has been delayed by another lawsuit, however, which calls for an environmental impact review.

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