Summer weather is here, and there is no better time to be on the streets of New York, especially at our city’s bustling outdoor restaurants.
At the height of the pandemic, our temporary outdoor dining program served millions of New Yorkers and saved 100,000 jobs. It allowed cooks, waiters, busboys, and all those who depend on the restaurant industry to get back to work – and New Yorkers to get back to socializing safely after being cooped up indoors.
Outdoor dining transformed our cityscape for the better, making our sidewalks and neighborhoods livelier and more welcoming and helping our small businesses thrive. While it may have been an improvised solution at first, outdoor dining helped us reimagine how we use our public spaces, and quickly became a beloved feature of New York City life.
But outdoor dining brought challenges too. Abandoned and poorly maintained sheds became a haven for rats and an eyesore for residents. We’ve removed more than 300 of these problem sheds from our neighborhoods.
And now, our new permanent outdoor dining program will build on what we learned during the pandemic and in subsequent years, and make outdoor dining more streamlined, sanitary and sustainable. It will provide clear design guidelines that will help keep our streets clean and rat-free while giving restaurant owners the opportunity to exercise their creativity.
It will significantly expand sidewalk dining from an option that was available almost exclusively in Manhattan to become a year-round feature in all five boroughs. Now, all New Yorkers will be able to enjoy the many benefits of outdoor dining. This equitable and inclusive approach will continue to bring vibrancy to our diverse neighborhoods and help our city’s economic recovery.
The new program will also make street dining possible for eight months out of the year. This will allow the city to clean and repair streets in the off-season, and ensure that unused structures are not left up indefinitely. This new vision for outdoor dining addresses many different needs: it will deliver outdoor space for restaurants, clean streets, and a high quality of life in our communities.
Finally, our new program will make life easier for all the small restaurant owners who are pillars of our communities. There will be one process for all outdoor dining, housed under one city agency. From the Upper West Side to Far Rockaway, we want to partner with restaurants, not penalize them.
I’d like to thank Councilmember Marjorie Velasquez and the many others who have worked tirelessly to bring New York City a permanent outdoor dining program that helps communities thrive and creates quality jobs for hardworking New Yorkers.
Our new permanent outdoor dining program allows us to expand the opportunities that were created during the pandemic and continues to build the New York City of tomorrow.