Activists want NYC Council to hold hearings before voting to make Open Restaurants permanent

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Tuesday, November 15, 2022
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NEW YORK (WABC) -- There are growing demands for the New York City Council to hold public hearings on new permanent Open Restaurants legislation.

Community and neighborhood organizations planned to protest on Tuesday ahead of a vote.

A spokesperson for the council said the legislation is still in discussion stages and no date for a vote has been set.

Activists say making the program permanent will change the use of street sand sidewalks across the city and they want a say in it.

Critics are also concerned that making the program permanent will also contribute to noise and other quality of life concerns and that it will promote unsanitary conditions like rats.

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They plan to deliver a letter signed by community leaders that calls for public hearings in all five boroughs, an independent environmental review study and community board review.

"We can speak all we want about inclusion, but when it comes right down to it, this is government by exclusion, subject to the control and influence of a very powerful industry," said Michael Sussman, the attorney representing New Yorkers adversely impacted by the program.

The Open Restaurants program was implemented during COVID-19 as a way to help restaurants and bars during the pandemic by allowing them to expand seating outdoors.

The program was started as a temporary initiative, so in order to make the program permanent, the laws that control outdoor dining in non-emergency situations would have to be changed.

As for what permanent outdoor dining might look like, it could be closed during winter months, prohibited in historic districts, and the Department of Transportation has said sheds would be replaced by road barriers and umbrellas.

The spokesperson for the City Council said there are no plans for a public hearing but they have held past public forums and they will continue to discuss the legislation with stakeholders.

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