NYC locals sue to block permanent expanded outdoor dining

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Stick a fork in it, they’re done.

A group of Big Apple residents has filed suit against the city to try to prevent outdoor street dining expanded during the pandemic from becoming permanent — arguing the al fresco set-ups are quality-of-life flops.

“Prior to its application to make the temporary open restaurants program permanent, [the city Department of Transportation] received thousands of complaints from residents related to noise, vermin, garbage accumulation, crowded sidewalks impeding residents access — all quality-of-life issues consisting a significant impact upon the environment,” says the Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit filed Monday.

“Despite plain evidence of those adverse effects, the DOT still issued a negative declaration, foreclosing the need for more intense study of both the projected effects, alternatives and mitigation measures,” the filing claims.

At issue is a June 18 finding by the DOT saying that if the expanded outdoor dining went into effect permanently, it would not have a negative environmental effect on residents, court papers say.

Outdoor dining structures in Williamsburg
The lawsuit claims the outdoor dining structures have led to many negative consequences for NYC neighborhoods.
Gregory P. Mango

This finding allows the city to bypass a normal public review process to fully assess the impacts that the measure would have and also allows the city to get around rezoning laws, the documents claim.

The DOT recommendation now goes to the City Council, which will decide whether to accept it and make the outdoor areas permanent, Mayor Bill de Blasio wants.

The lawsuit comes as the DOT said the agency and city Department of Sanitation have removed 24 of the street establishments since July 2020.

Of the 24 removals, eight were because of non-compliance, and the rest were found to be abandoned or already destroyed, the DOT said. Violations had included blocking a fire hydrant, blocking a bus stop and blocking a bus lane.

Exterior overview of Waverly Diner, it hired a security guard to patrol outdoor dining area along sidewalk area. Located on Waverly Place & Ave of Americas
Mayor de Blasio announced last year the outdoor dining program could be a permanent fixture in NYC.
Robert Miller

As for the lawsuit, it was filed by 23 residents from Manhattan and Brooklyn and is asking a judge to overturn the DOT’s recommendation to let the existing temporary set-ups become permanent.

The suit lays out case studies of each of the residents’ personal alleged bad experiences with the city’s Open Restaurants program.

One plaintiff, Kathryn Arntzen, who have been living with her husband on leafy Cornelia Street in Greenwich Village in Manhattan for 32 years, said she doesn’t even recognize their street anymore.

She said their block now has seven restaurants which have outdoor seating under sheds.

Arntzen claims in the court papers that music and televisions are blasted from the set-ups and dining guests can be heard chattering loudly.

People gather at Kindred in the East Village during the COVID-19 pandemic on Saturday, May 1, 2021 in New York, N.Y.
A Department of Transportation study from earlier in 2021 said that there would not be negative environmental effects from the structures.
James Keivom

Further, garbage is always piled up outside the eateries and the “rat population has grown immensely,” she says in the documents.

Now, Arntzen “feels as if she is walking through a restaurant” when she is out and about in her neighborhood, making “social distancing nigh impossible,” the suit claims.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Michael Sussman, told The Post, “The city owes it to the citizens to follow the law.

“It’s really quite simple. You have to comply with very basic rules in implementing major changes to public policy, and that just hasn’t been done here,’’ he said.

Sussman added that if the proposal passes, it would “gut” hundreds of zoning provisions.

Hot Pot restaurant
Kathryn Arntzen claims in the suit that the outdoor dining fixtures have led to an increase in rats.
Gregory P. Mango

“These acts require the study of environmental things — noise, sanitation, parking and quality of life,” Sussman said. “These are all the factors that are supposed to be analyzed carefully before you implement these changes.

“They said they found no significant impact, which is impossible.”

A spokesman with the city Law Department said, “The city’s environmental review was thorough, complete and found no adverse impact.

“This is the first step in crafting a permanent program, and New Yorkers will continue to have opportunities to share their thoughts on how Open Restaurant structures should be designed.”

-Additional reporting by David Meyer

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