On Nov. 15, on Broadway, across from City Hall where City Council Members have their offices, dozens of Greenwich Village, East Village and Soho denizens chanted: We want our streets back! Open restaurants, sleepless nights, trash-filled streets, drunken fights.
Lower Manhattan has some of the highest density of restaurants and bars in the City. Compounded by particularly narrow sidewalks and streets, expanding these eateries into the streets, many multiple curbside end-to-end sheds without access to the sidewalk, is overwhelming. The issue is quality of life. At issue: rats, noise, and trash.
These New Yorkers were protesting Bill Int No. 31-A, which is being introduced in a couple of days by Council Members Marjorie Velazquez, Keith Powers, and Julie Menin, by the request of the Mayor. Passage will streamline existing outdoor licensing and revocable consent process for “open restaurants” including sheds in the street.
Placards held by the demonstrators also spell it out. They read: Open restaurants, trashing neighborhoods, trashing democracy. E.I.S. (Environmental Impact Study) Now. NYC to Residents: STFU (Shut the F*** Up). Restaurants Get Big $$$, NYers Get the Shaft.
Residents want their voices heard on the issue of open restaurants.
Stuart Waldman, who led the chants, explains the issues, simply, “We’ve been struggling with this for two years—rats, noise, trash. Really, it’s impossible to live with.“
“None of us objected to it when it was a temporary program. Now the City Council is considering a bill to make it permanent. Three Members fashioned this bill, in a closed room, and the only others there are members of the New York Hospitality Alliance, the restaurant lobby.”
“We are the residents. (Hundreds of thousands live on these streets, and there are 12,000 sheds. We’re not considered, we’re not invited.) We want a public hearing, in each borough. They won’t give us a public hearing.”
And, he explained, “We want an environment impact study,” and that any major project calls for a study to determine the impact on the neighborhood (noise, trash), establishing the facts, not just the position of neighbors or lobbyists.
“The City is afraid to have it because they’re afraid of the facts. It’s really ruining neighborhoods.”
Council Member Chris Marte, who supports the demonstrators, is the only member of City Council present at the rally.
Ralliers tried to enter the building to deliver a letter addressed to Speaker Adams. At its core, the letter asked for public hearings and community board engagement. “We need truly, representative, local democracy returned to New York City,” the letter beseeched. It was later taken upstairs by a Council Member.
With a political art installation thrown in during the rally —a broken-down shed sitting atop a pick-up truck arrived. The faces of all the political culprits filled the shed as well as a number of inflatable aliens, and below them, a plethora of rats. Sound emanated from the mobile installation—it was the incessant din of an overcrowded restaurant and diners shouting.