NEW YORK (PIX11) — A group of New Yorkers is looking to shut down the city’s outdoor dining program because they are fed up with the garbage, the rats, and the noise, according to a Manhattan lawsuit.
“They gotta shed the sheds,” Community Board 4 President Robert Camacho said.
The suit, filed in New York Supreme Court, claims the residents’ day-to-day lives are adversely affected by the Temporary Open Restaurant Program (TOR) the city implemented at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The eateries were allowed to add outdoor structures to accommodate social distancing and help keep the businesses afloat.
But some of the dining sheds have had unintended consequences, like noise and parking headaches for area residents.
“…increased and excessive noise, traffic congestion, garbage, and uncontrolled rodent populations, the blocking of sidewalks and roadways, causing petitioners and others to be unable to safely navigate the city’s streets and sidewalks, and a diminution of available parking,” the suit said.
Camacho, who is one of the more than two dozen petitioners named in the suit, said he’s seen some illegal activities in the shed.
“There’s noise all day, even at 3 a.m.,” he said. “People are getting high in those sheds.”
“It’s not helping the community,” he added. “We got more garbage than anything and the sweepers can’t even sweep the streets.”
The petitioners also argue that the pandemic is over and restaurants have returned to full-capacity indoor dining, so there’s no need for outdoor sheds.
“No public health emergency exists and, therefore, there is no premise for TOR,” the suit said.
However, the city doesn’t seem to be budging. Mayor Eric Adams said Monday that he’s still a big believer in outdoor dining and it was a lifeline for the restaurant industry, but conceded some of the sheds have been a hazard.
“I think there’s a way to modify and standardize the way the structures should look like and how they’re used. They can’t be used for storage,” Adams said.
The NYC Hospitality Alliance agrees that there are ways to improve the program as the city transitions out of the pandemic, but shutting the TOR down is not the solution.
“Ending outdoor dining would be devastating for our city’s restaurant recovery, New Yorkers’ jobs, and is a huge loss for the countless people who love dining alfresco,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of NYC Hospitality Alliance.