Curbside Dining

<p>In the summer, a handful of New Yorkers like Calvin Tsao remake public space into their own personal dining rooms.</p>
August 3, 2008, 5am PDT | Tim Halbur
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"As long as there have been cities, their residents have spread out, outside, when the temperature rises. New Yorkers have long been in the habit of bringing out lawn chairs, card tables and mattresses - even sofas and televisions - turning sidewalks and fire escapes into living rooms, dining areas and sleeping porches. But there are those, like Mr. Tsao, for whom the usual stoop picnic is not enough, expansionist entertainers who are putting a new spin on an old practice, and domesticating public space in ever more elaborate ways.

Two or three times a summer, Suzanne Seggerman, president and the co-founder of Games for Change, a nonprofit group that promotes digital games as tools for social activism, holds what she calls "Chez L'Hydrant" dinners in front of the building on Bond Street where she has lived for 15 years. At these parties, six or eight friends share a one-pot dish like bouillabaisse ("risotto would obviously be a disaster," Ms. Seggerman said), two card tables, and lots of rosé. The first Chez L'Hydrant was three years ago, a year before Ian Schrager began building his sleek gated condo down the block, Ms. Seggerman said, joining other "forces of glitz" in the remaking of her NoHo neighborhood. "For me, it's about taking back Bond Street," Ms. Seggerman said, 'or re-appropriating public space in response to the invasion we've seen lately in our neighborhood.'"

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Published on Thursday, July 31, 2008 in The New York Times
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