Who Should Manage New York’s Outdoor Dining Program?

A proposal to shift responsibility away from the Department of Transportation has met staunch resistance from industry groups and advocates of the program.

2 minute read

October 24, 2022, 5:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Writing in Streetsblog NYC, Kevin Duggan reports on the uncertain future of New York City’s outdoor dining program, which has been administered by the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) since its inception in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then, the program became ten times bigger than a prior sidewalk dining program managed by the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) and, according to some, propped up the industry during the pandemic.

The 0.3-percent reduction in private car storage for Open Restaurants saved some 100,000 jobs during the coronavirus crisis, city officials estimate, and it is still driving Gotham’s slow comeback by helping restaurants make up for pandemic losses, according to the executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, which represents tens of thousands of restaurants.

A bill proposed in February would shift management of the program to the DCWP and bar restaurants from erecting outdoor dining structures in the winter months, “a non-starter, restaurateurs previously told Streetsblog because of the cost to build, dismantle and store sheds every year simply because of a winter ban.” Duggan notes that Streetsblog and restaurant industry groups have unsuccessfully tried to get answers from the bill’s sponsor, Council Member Marjorie Velázquez (D–Bronx).

Opponents of the proposal say it would “essentially kill” the outdoor dining program, and that “The $1.4-billion DOT is far better equipped to handle the mammoth initiative than the $70-million DCWP.” Restaurant owners say DOT has been a more collaborative partner, with one owner saying, “I think that [DOT] have their priorities right,” unlike DCWP, who are perceived as “punishers” rather than partners.

Thursday, October 20, 2022 in StreetsBlog NYC

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