When the pandemic shutdowns first started to lift and people were slowly being allowed to go out to eat again, special accommodations were made for restaurants so they would be able to serve diners while still maintaining social distancing protocols. In New York City, as with many other places, exemptions to zoning laws were made to allow for outdoor dining areas under canopies on the sidewalks. This worked out well enough for a while unless there was an ice storm going on. But what the city didn’t seem to anticipate was that diners really wound up loving the outdoor eating option. The City Council has been getting a lot of feedback over this and moved this month to make the exemptions for sidewalk dining permanent.
While tourists and well-off diners liked the option, however, it hasn’t been at all popular with the residents who live on the same streets as some of these restaurants. At a recent City Council meeting, many of them showed up to blast the mayor and the members of the council for the decision. They seemed to be accepting of the changes as an unfortunate necessity while the pandemic restrictions were still in place, but now they want the practice ended. They claim that their quality of living is being severely impacted by a variety of factors including rats, most of which are nowhere near as adorable as the famous Pizza Rat. (CBS New York)
The city’s plan to make outdoor dining permanent is meeting a lot of resistance from local residents.
They say noise, rats and lack of space are just some of the problems, CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas reported Monday.
Residents in the West Village sounded off to the community board that is tasked with providing input on what will be the regulations for the new law. They said they want to support their local businesses, but when the pandemic is over the outdoor dining structures should be gone, too.
These don’t sound like trivial complaints. There had always been prohibitions against setting up dining facilities on the sidewalks and they were there for a reason. The outdoor dining areas generate noise, both from normal restaurant chatter and clatter to music blasting out from inside of the building. The canopies and seating areas frequently take up nearly the entire sidewalk, forcing residents to walk along the edge of the street or over the storm grates. (That’s particularly problematic for people wearing heels or using a cane to get around.) And the food waste and trash that inevitably winds up under the tables is reportedly attracting rats in numbers not previously seen.
What was Mayor Bill de Blasio’s response to these calls for help from the residents of these neighborhoods? He put out a statement saying, “Outdoor dining saved 100,000 jobs. A stance against outdoor dining is a stance against this city’s recovery. It’s here to stay.”
So the Mayor essentially flipped the bird at his own voters in a way that only a term-limited, lame-duck mayor can. But his argument obviously makes no sense and the residents won’t be quiet about it. The outdoor dining option may have saved tens of thousands of jobs during the time of the pandemic restrictions, but that’s only because the government limited where people could gather and how many were allowed to be there. Those limits have been lifted and the restaurants are now able to go back to serving as many people as they used to indoors.
Also, with crime rates still rising, the sidewalks in New York City aren’t all that safe to begin with. Forcing pedestrians off of them and into the streets so they can navigate around the outdoor dining areas just makes people all the more unsafe. But in the end, it comes back to the same question we always raise when issues of poor governance arise in our major cities. If you people who are complaining are that unhappy about the poor treatment you receive and the bad choices made by your elected officials, why do you keep voting for them?