CB1 Wants Outdoor Dining Spaces Scaled Back
Community Board 1 (CB1) is getting behind a push to scale back the number of outdoor dining sheds on Lower Manhattan streets and sidewalks, led by the Coalition United for Equitable Urban Policy (CUEUP). The group describes itself as “an alliance of neighborhood and block associations, organizations, institutions, businesses, and residents united for collective action and participatory policymaking to ensure the safety, health, and well-being of all New Yorkers.” CUEUP is spearheading a drive to set limits on the number of restaurants that claim space in streets and on sidewalks for sheds to accommodate outdoor diners. These structures became common on New York’s streetscape during the Covid pandemic under the Open Dining program, as an emergency lifeline to the beleaguered restaurant industry.
But CUEUP characterizes Lower Manhattan as “saturated beyond endurance” with outdoor dining sheds. Data from the administration of Mayor Eric Adams indicates there are nearly 13,000 of the sheds throughout the five boroughs, with 582 of these concentrated in the eight residential zip codes of southern Manhattan. Among the local establishments utilizing sheds, according to the City statistics, 302 take up spaces on both sidewalks and roadbeds, while 90 use streets exclusively, 173 use sidewalks only, and 17 utilize the City’s Open Streets program.
CUEUP wants to remove roadbed restaurant sheds immediately because, the group charges, “sanitation street sweepers haven’t cleaned restaurant-filled streets in more than two years.” The group then wants to prohibit more than two sidewalk shed permits per block, with an overall cap of 100 per community district, and a guarantee that pedestrians and wheelchair users have a clear path at least eight feet wide, or half of the sidewalk (whichever is greater).
In a resolution enacted at its April 25 meeting, CB1 notes, “Open Dining has been both the savior of restaurants and a quality-of-life scourge for many households located on corridors with densities of food and beverage establishments.”
The same resolution notes that the Open Dining program was the successor to the pre-pandemic Sidewalk Cafe program. The former was operated by the City’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, which enforced strict limits on the number of permits issued. The latter has been overseen by the City’s Department of Transportation, which has been much more expansive in issuing permits. In this context, the resolution enacted by CB1 asserts, “Community Boards should have an active review role in future DOT rules as they have in the past with sidewalk cafes.”