Making Streetside Dining Permanent
It’s Monday. Today we’ll look at “streeteries” — amid a wider discussion about the street space they now occupy and whether the city would be …
It’s Monday. Today we’ll look at “streeteries” — amid a wider discussion about the street space they now occupy and whether the city would be better off if some of them went back inside.
Credit…Clay Williams for The New York Times
The coronavirus pandemic moved New York City’s restaurants onto the sidewalks and into the streets. Now the city is moving to make a variation of its Open Restaurants program permanent. In July, the city proposed a change to zoning rules that would permit restaurant structures at the curb to stay up indefinitely. Officially, they are only temporary now. The city expects to begin taking applications for the permanent structures late next year.
The restaurant industry, one of the city’s economic tentpoles, is doing better now than it was at the beginning of the year, when the New York City Hospitality Alliance said that 92 percent of restaurants could not pay the rent. Still, Andrew Rigie, the executive director of the alliance, said that only about two-thirds of restaurant employees have returned to work since pandemic restrictions on dining were eased. Restaurants added only 3,000 restaurant jobs in August, the fewest in any month this year, he said.
Complicating the picture for restaurants were two incidents last week. One involved an Upper East Side restaurant that has a shedlike structure at the curb. A 28-year-old man was shot while having dinner outside. The police said he got into a struggle with one of two men wearing masks who jumped out of a sport-utility vehicle and approached customers in an attempted robbery.
The other incident underscored the continuing tensions over vaccinations, as well as restaurant workers’ new frontline roles in dealing with regulations. The police arrested three women from Texas who they said had punched a hostess at Carmine’s, an Italian restaurant on the Upper West Side. The police said last week that the hostess had asked to see proof that the women had been vaccinated.
But on Saturday, lawyers for the restaurant and the women, who are Black, said the three had provided that documentation. The lawyers said the brawl began after two men who joined their party could not provide similar proof.
Justin Moore, a lawyer for one of the women, described the altercation as “mutual combat” and said that the hostess had used a racial slur. But Carolyn Moore, a lawyer for the restaurant, said by email that “nothing about this incident suggests race was an issue.”
A “wild, wild West atmosphere”
From an urban planning perspective, Open Restaurants was not about keeping customers plied with entrees, desserts and drinks — and thus keeping restaurants in
business. It was, and is, about how public spaces in the city can be used.
Daniel L. Doctoroff — a former deputy mayor who is now the chief executive of the urban-innovation company Sidewalk Labs — argued in an Op-Ed in The Times in July that planners “need to think bigger than dining sheds,” noting that he was “not anti-shed” but “pro-public space.”
Opponents say that making outdoor dining permanent would compound neighborhood headaches.
One neighborhood where opponents have been particularly vocal is the Lower East Side — “an incubator of what not to do,” said Diem Boyd, the founder of the community group L.E.S. Dwellers. She complained that outdoor restaurants have contributed to an “open-air nightclub, wild, wild West atmosphere.”
Opponents like Ms. Boyd and Cue-Up, an alliance of community groups whose full name is the Coalition United for Equitable Urban Policy, maintain that the Open Restaurants plan would amount to a “land grab” for restaurants. Micki McGee, a member of Cue-Up, said that permanent outdoor restaurant facilities would also create “a streetscape populated by restaurants that are no longer serving the neighborhoods but are serving as tourist attractions.”
Worse, Ms. Boyd said she was concerned that the city’s plan would drive out retailers. “The mom-and-pops that you love, the tailor shop or the vintage shop, they’re going to go, because the landlord is going to say ‘I can put a cafe in there, I can have the roadbed, increase the rent,’” Ms. Boyd said. “It’s going to kill small businesses.”
We’re ushering in the cooler weather, New York, with temps in the mid-70s and the chilly, low 60s at night.
In effect today. Suspended tomorrow and Wednesday (Sukkot).
The latest New York news
Representative Lee Zeldin, a conservative from Long Island and the leading Republican candidate in next year’s race for governor, revealed that he was diagnosed with leukemia last year and is in remission.
A city in New Jersey replaced actual grass with a synthetic version. It set off a conflict over the move’s possible environmental and health risks.
In the city with 8 million stories, 1 million new daffodils
Even after 16 months in charge of a group that gives away daffodil bulbs, Adam Ganser has yet to plant a single one.
Maybe soon, he finally will. The group, New Yorkers for Parks, is busy distributing a million bulbs around the city.
It decided in May — when case counts were lower and the delta variant had not emerged as a highly contagious threat — to resume an annual project it canceled last year because of the pandemic. The daffodil bulb distribution began as a tribute to those killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
“Covid brought back many feelings about 9/11 because it was another big catastrophic event, but it was also very different,” Mr. Ganser said. “9/11 happened in an instant. Covid has been going on for 18 months, and we’ve seen how people have really relied on the parks in that time. Planting something is one of the ways people can feel normal.”
Planting is also anticipatory, which implies hope — will anything pop up in the spring? Will it be worthy of Wordsworth? After all, he beheld a lot of daffodils: “Ten thousand saw I at a glance.”
New Yorkers for Parks hopes to beat that by a factor of 100, doubling the number from 2019. People who want to plant were required to register during the summer. They can pick up bulbs at sites around the city this month.
Some take whole bags of 550 bulbs each. Others claim only 50 or so.
New Yorkers for Parks does not tell them where to plant what they take. It’s strictly FYOL (find your own location) and BYOT (bring your own trowel).
The daffodil project began with an offer of donations from a Dutch bulb company and the city of Rotterdam after the Sept. 11 attacks. Later it became something of a citywide beautification campaign, and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, acknowledging the group’s efforts, designated the daffodil as the city’s official flower in 2007.
New Yorkers for Parks has an alliance with the Parks Department and its Green Thumb community gardens program, which will distribute nearly 90,000 bulbs this year. It also hired the graffiti artist Michael De Feo, who is known as “the flower guy.”
He designed a new logo, featuring — what else? — daffodils.
“The daffodil project is the physical version of what I do with paint,” Mr. De Feo said, “and this creates engagement with the city we live in, just like one aspect of doing work in the streets for me is to get people engaged with their city and reawaken their senses.”
What we’re reading
Meet the (illustrated) birders at Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx.
Eater reported on how three independent restaurant owners are navigating the challenges of running their businesses during the pandemic.
The governor was spotted backstage at Prabal Gurung’s show, plus more on this photographic roundup of New York Fashion Week.
On a rainy Queens Saturday in early 1968 — or was it 1969? — my buddies Andy, Carl, Charlie and I gathered for our weekly two-on-two basketball game.
Rather than play outside, Carl, who was a student at St. John’s at the time, suggested we go to the university’s gym.
There was a game scheduled for that evening, but the building was open and it seemed empty. As we walked down a hallway toward the polished wood floor, who should emerge from his office but Lou Carnesecca, the venerable St. John’s coach.
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
Just looking to play some hoops, Coach, we said.
“Get out of here,” he said, not unkindly.
— Danny Domoff
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero, Jeffrey Furticella, Andrew Hinderaker, Rick Martinez and Olivia Parker contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].