New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced Thursday that two dozen abandoned outdoor dining structures are being destroyed amid a long-running debate over the program.
Standing in front of a deserted house in Manhattan, Adams emphasized his support for making outdoor dining a permanent part of urban dining — an outcome officials have been working toward for months. But he said longevity must be maintained “in a way that is safe, clean and respectful of our neighbors and the people who live in the community.”
In addition to removing structures that are now shuttered restaurants, Adams has promised to crack down on repeated violations of the city’s outdoor dining ordinance. According to the information obtained from the office, 37 sheds are currently under investigation.
“What I want to say as loud as I can is: outdoor dining is here to stay and we want to make sure it’s here, we’re going to get it right,” Adams said at a press conference Thursday. .
Al fresco dining went up in the city’s restaurant scene in June 2020 as a much-anticipated move to help a once-thriving industry hit by lockdowns in the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic. About 13,000 restaurants participate in the city’s outdoor dining program.
The program remains popular with many diners, but some residents object to unsanitary conditions created by certain outbuildings. Others have criticized the appearance of some sheds, including those that are no longer in use, while others have pointed to safety and pesticide concerns.
Critics of outdoor dining remain a small segment of the population, Adams said. He said a lawsuit seeking to end eating out in the five boroughs — which has continued under the mayor’s guise as an executive — is undermining long-standing efforts to preserve it.
“Unfortunately, there’s a minority who don’t like eating out at all … their lawsuit against the city is slowing down the process of making the program sustainable,” Adams said.
Rat sightings have been on the rise since last year, partly due to food waste being eaten outside, the city’s health department told Gothamist this spring. Adams has been critical of the city’s rat problem since he was Brooklyn’s borough president before the outbreak, but the latest developments have led to accusations that the administration is not doing enough to address the issue.
Still, dining out has been spared, and an important aspect of city life — dining in restaurants — has been figured out even in the midst of a public health crisis. The mayor has repeatedly claimed that the program has saved 100,000 lives.
Andrew Riggi, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, praised the city for tearing down the sheds and urged city leaders to develop a fair and permanent outdoor dining program.
“We look forward to working with the city to develop a beautiful and sustainable permanent outdoor dining system for the future,” he said in a statement.
With recent support from the parks department and police, the city’s transportation and sanitation departments are leading enforcement efforts.