City Council calls for open street expansion to promote distanced dining

traffic safety
(Photo by Todd Maisel)


Manhattan elected officials outlined plans for expanded outdoor seating to help restaurants begin the reopening process while keeping proper social distancing in a meeting Friday organized by the Greenwich Village Chelsea Chamber of Commerce.

City Council members introduced legislation Thursday that would require the city’s Department of Transportation to identify open spaces like sidewalks, streets and plazas suitable for outdoor dining while the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene would set guidelines for safe social distancing in these outdoor spaces.

Encouraging outdoor dining is an important step to take in preparation for reopening the city safely, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said.

“We need to move out of triage mode and into proactive mode,” Johnson said.

Council members will have a hearing on the proposed legislation June 4, said Council Member Carlina Rivera (D – 2), who co-sponsored the bill.

The legislators behind the bill are pushing Mayor Bill de Blasio to have conversations about safely re-opening restaurants because de Blasio has not introduced these types of plans on his own, Rivera said.

The goal is to use these spaces to offset the loss of indoor seating restaurants will face as a result of practicing effective social distancing, said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the Hospitality Alliance.

“The city of New York will never recover unless the restaurant industry at its core recovers,” Rigie said.

Restaurant owners Johnson has talked with would be happy to re-open, even with dispersed outdoor seating, as long as they are given guidelines that are “clear, science-based and workable,” he said.

In addition to safety measures, the process should be low-cost and simple for New Yorkers, said Council Member Keith Powers (D – 4), who co-sponsored the bill.

The Hospitality Alliance requested New Yorkers suggest locations that might be a good fit for outdoor dining to help grow the proposed program.