NYC takes step forward to make outdoor dining permanent fixture on city streets

NEW YORK (WABC) -- New York City took a major step forward Tuesday to make outdoor dining permanent.

The planning commission signed off on a change to the zoning law to make the popular option a full-time fixture in the city.

While it helped many restaurants stay financially afloat during the pandemic, not everyone is happy about it.

"You can't get underneath there to clean, this place hasn't been cleaned in 18 months," said community activist Leslie Clark.

Clark is a longtime West Village resident who has had enough with what the West Village has become -- streets and sidewalks cramped with outdoor dining.

While she understands that the sheds were born out of the pandemic -- a salvation for the dying restaurant industry-- she says the emergency has passed and they shouldn't become permanent.

"This is not what city streets are for, they are for buses, access-a-ride, school buses, fire engines, ambulances -- all the things that now have to shimmy down the road like we have to shimmy down the sidewalk," Clark said.



But the City Council has decided to make some version of this permanent.

It's the right thing to do, according to Andrew Rigie, who heads up the NYC Hospitality Alliance.
"We went from about 1,200 sidewalk cafes pre-pandemic to more than 11,000 restaurants throughout the five boroughs participating in Open Restaurants," Rigie said. "It saved countless small businesses throughout the city and it's credited with saving about 100,000 jobs."

But how outdoor dining looks in the future has yet to be determined.

"When we say outdoor dining is being made permanent, it doesn't mean that the current emergency program is going to be made permanent, it means a new standardized and sustainable program is being developed," Rigie said.

And he expects input from community groups, including community boards, which Clark says are already being ignored.

"Before you change the streets of New York, do an environmental impact statement," Clark said. "Let's see what you're actually going to do before you do it."

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Fauci warned that cases are still high, so people should wear masks when they're out and about in the community and around groups of people in indoor settings.



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