Don’t outdoor restaurants sound nice? During the pandemic, New York City allowed restaurants that couldn’t host people indoors to serve them outdoors. Many restaurant owners credit the rule for keeping them in business. We neighbors happily supported businesses in need.
The landlords saw the huge profit in keeping this public space for their private property, started raising rents—profiting from a deadly pandemic—and tried to get politicians to give them that public land permanently.
I might not mind if that space were coming from just car spaces, or if restaurants weren’t polluting the area so much with plastic, burning fossil fuels to heat the outdoors while California is on fire, other packaging, and noise.
There is a better alternative that no one thought of because we didn’t know the city was willing to convert space from parking spaces and open sidewalk. We could turn it to living green spaces: community gardens, playgrounds, farmers markets, bike lanes, public pedestrian spaces, and such. There was already huge demand for such spaces. People wait years for plots in the tiny spaces we have. But search the web for “Manhattan community gardens” and you’ll find almost nothing, especially around Greenwich Village.
This program is already raising rents, making new restaurants harder to start. It helps a few individuals while hurting the industry it purports to help.
Those who know New York City’s history will see this land grab from the public on par with the failed Lower Manhattan Expressway. People organized to protect what became global destinations: Soho, Nolita, Tribeca, the Lower East Side.
If you have influence with New York City politics, end this program of pollution and destruction.