BUSHWICK, Brooklyn (PIX11) — Two and-a-half years after the depths of the pandemic led to New York City and New York State allowing dining sheds to be built on the street outside of restaurants, a group of community activists and residents is suing to have all 12,000 of them removed.
In opposition to the legal action, Mayor Eric Adams on Monday expressed his support for the sheds, but also said that reforms in how they’re allowed to operate are needed.
Robert Camacho, the president of Community Board 4 in Bushwick, is one of 35 plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the city and state. His reason for joining the legal action, he said, was simple.
“The sheds are not working,” he told PIX11 News. “It’s creating an unsafe environment, rodents, noise in the night, kids having sex, shooting up.”
He led PIX11 News on a tour of his neighborhood, in which he showed a variety of dining sheds that have been abandoned for months.
Shannon Phipps, the founder of the Brooklyn community action group Berry Street Alliance, is also among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. She said that the sheds were originally permitted under an emergency declaration, only.
“What we are opposing,” she said in an interview, “is overreach of government and power.”
She added that now, the city’s Department of Transportation is tasked with overseeing the in-the-street sheds.
“They used to take care of stop signs and potholes,” she said, “and now they’re running the industry of restaurants and bars, and not very well.”
However, some sheds are still being built. A work crew outside of the Artichoke Pizza was putting one together on Monday afternoon. The crew’s manager, Danny Gotay, of Vidans Builders Corp., said that dining sheds not only provide jobs for his workers, but also keep restaurant and bar workers employed.
He also said that with COVID still spreading, the sheds promote good health, as well as business.
“It keeps the area alive, that’s the biggest thing,” he said, while overseeing the construction crews. “You eliminate that, and [customers] don’t want to be inside. A lot of people still are scared.”
“This is what everybody’s used to now,” he continued. “This is the new New York.”
Agreeing with that statement earlier in the day on Monday, was none other than Mayor Eric Adams.
“This is an important industry, and it’s an indicator of our city,” he said, during a question and answer session with reporters.
He said that lawsuits like the one recently filed go through a months-long process that he’s ready for. He also called for changes to how dining sheds remain in place.
“Standardize what the structures should look like, and how they can be used,” he said. “They can’t be used for storage, they can’t be used for all other things.”
Dining al fresco in the sidewalk cafe next to the dining shed under construction at Artichoke Pizza was Mustafa Alawda, and his friends. The Brooklyn resident said that while he didn’t mind dining sheds, some kind of reform should happen.
“I don’t know if it’s a good idea all the time,” he said.