Get Involved: City Issues Public Survey and Public Engagement Schedule for Permanent Open Restaurants Program
Robust public engagement process will evaluate successes and improvements needed for Open Restaurants program; draft guidelines for permanent program out in March 2022
NEW YORK – The de Blasio administration today announced next steps for the public to participate in the creation of easy-to-use design rules to that will guide the coming citywide permanent Open Restaurants program. This public engagement process is a collaboration between the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Department of City Planning (DCP). A short guide outlining the coming citywide program is available here.
"The incredible success of outdoor dining shows how we can reimagine our streetscape to better serve our neighborhoods," said DOT Commissioner Hank Gutman. "We have learned so much about how to make this overwhelmingly popular program even better, and that's exactly what we're going to do. We're thrilled to start this robust conversation with the public to craft guidelines that will increase accessibility, safety and address concerns such as noise, hours of operation and sanitation."
"While helping us to recover from a devastating pandemic, the coming citywide Open Restaurants program is a key to helping us build healthier and safer shared streets, and stronger and vibrant communities. Don't sit on the sidelines. Fill out the survey and get involved in designing rules that will shape the look and feel of outdoor dining in New York City," said DCP Director Anita Laremont, who also serves as Chair of the City Planning Commission.
A survey for members of the public is available here. We urge all New Yorkers to consider responding by Dec. 31.
Credited with saving over 100,000 restaurants jobs during the pandemic and increasing the number of restaurants with outdoor dining – from 1,200 in February 2020 to 11,000 now – the emergency Open Restaurants program introduced novel questions about how to best integrate roadway dining setups into the complex environment of New York City streets.
Earlier this week, the City Planning Commission voted to remove inequitable zoning rules that limited al fresco dining to some parts of New York City. In response to public input, the new zoning rules, which must still be approved by the City Council, will not go into effect until the Permanent Open Restaurants program, including all safety and design guidelines, are reviewed by the public and final. Alongside rigorous public input, the permanent program will be guided by coming legislation by the New York City Council.
This citywide public engagement process for the coming design rules for sidewalk and roadway setups aims to promote accessibility, ensure guidelines are clear and enforceable, and address quality-of-life issues such as trash and noise. DCP and DOT intend to release a first report on design of the coming program in March 2022. Read more about the process here. After that, DCP and DOT will begin a second series of public engagement and outreach sessions to develop the final rules. The permanent program is expected to be in place by 2023.
The survey, which is posted on DOT's website, solicits information from New Yorkers, those in the restaurant business and their neighbors, about what they see as the pros and cons of Open Restaurants, and to share their thoughts on how to improve on the emergency program. Public input via the survey will shape the coming design rules. The deadline for survey responses is Dec. 31.
Five Borough Board Meetings
DCP & DOT will present to each of the five Borough Boards (made up of the Borough Presidents and Community Board chairs in all five boroughs) in December and January. The agencies will share an overview of the permanent Open Restaurants design guidelines process and goals and solicit feedback from the Borough Board members. The public is encouraged to join the meetings, either in person or online. A zoom link will be made available and publicized. The dates are available here.
Virtual Public Roundtables
DOT and DCP will host a series of four virtual roundtables that are open to the public, where any New Yorker can share their thoughts on the permanent Open Restaurants program. The first two roundtables will take place on Jan. 11, 2022, from noon to 1:30 pm and Jan. 12, 2022, from 6 to 7:30 pm.
Virtual Topic-Based Roundtables
Alfresco NYC - RPA, Design Trust, and Tri-State Transportation Campaign in coordination with DOT & DCT will host a series of virtual roundtables to bring together a range of stakeholders from the hospitality industry, design professions, and transit and accessibility advocates, to provide an in-depth look at major issues to be addressed by the permanent program. Details to follow.
This public engagement announcement comes after the City Planning Commission's vote on Nov. 15 in favor of the Open Restaurants zoning text amendment that aims to remove geographic restrictions on where sidewalk cafes can be located within New York City. The text amendment was modified to only go into effect after the permanent program guidelines are in place. It now moves on to the City Council for a public hearing and vote.
"The emergency Open Restaurants program was and continues to be a lifeline for small businesses and critical support for the service industry. Further, this program provided a sense of community and normalcy at a time when New Yorkers needed it most," said Council Member Carlina Rivera. "We have an opportunity to codify the equitable expansion of Open Restaurants across the five boroughs, and this opportunity for public input is exactly the sort of community engagement necessary to ensure new programs such as this one work for everyone. I urge all New Yorkers to participate so that we can build a successful plan."
"Open dining was a lifeline for restaurants at the beginning of the pandemic. Modifying the sidewalk zoning text to continue this business-friendly program has the potential to beautify our streetscape for pedestrians and small businesses. However, DOT and DCP must listen to residents input so implementation works not just for restaurants but for neighbors as well. Quality of life disruptions deserve our attention and I am glad to see DOT and DCP take these concerns seriously," said Council Member Margaret Chin.
"The Open Restaurants program was a key lifeline to our small businesses that brought New Yorkers together during the worst of the pandemic, and it proved an excellent model for permanently reimagining our streets," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "Now we have to figure out as a city what it looks like going forward, so restaurants and diners get the benefits of active street activity, while ensuring structures are updated as needed and removed if they are not being used. I applaud this comprehensive effort to engage New Yorkers around the city, who deserve to have their voices heard on the policy shifts regulating outdoor dining and drinking in diverse settings and communities."
"Outdoor dining has brought economic stability and real vibrancy to our streets during trying times. I look forward to eating outdoors with friends and family for years to come, and am grateful for this process to address real challenges from sanitation to permitting and ownership so that we can have a strong program that works for our neighborhoods," said Council Member Brad Lander.
"The Open Restaurants program has served as a lifeline for restaurants, while giving New Yorkers a new, innovative way to utilize public space, interact with one another, and patronize local businesses," said Council Member Keith Powers. "I'm very proud to have been an early supporter of outdoor dining, and I strongly encourage every New Yorker to fill out this survey—let's build a stronger, better NYC!"
Council Member Robert Holden said, "New Yorkers should participate and make their opinions about outdoor dining heard. It's a complicated issue and allowing our restaurants to thrive while addressing problems like parking, sanitation and safety is essential to recover from the pandemic."
"The open restaurants program helped business corridors all over the city survive throughout the pandemic and created a new way for New Yorkers to enjoy the best we have to offer" said Council Member Vallone, "I applaud the city on their continued commitment to improving a program that saved so many struggling businesses and I encourage everyone to participate in the Open Restaurants public design engagement period."
"The Open Restaurants program has proven to be vital lifeline during COVID-19, not only for New York City's restaurants and small businesses, but also the residents and communities who relied on them through the pandemic's darkest hours. This is why it's equally important that these same communities have a say on how the next phase of Open Restaurants will be realized citywide," said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer.
"The Open Restaurants program has not only saved countless small businesses, but it has also pointed to a more accessible and open use of our streets and sidewalks. The Design Trust is proud to be working as part of the Alfresco NYC coalition, to open this conversation to more New Yorkers. With many voices at the table and being heard, Open Restaurants can continue to sustain businesses and residents for many years to come," said Matthew Clarke, Executive Director of the Design Trust for Public Space.
"Open Restaurants helped save thousands of small businesses from shuttering, it's credited with saving 100,000 industry jobs, and providing New Yorkers the opportunity to safely socialize while dining al fresco over a great meal during the COVID-19 crisis. Now as the city transitions from the temporary, emergency outdoor dining program to a permanent version, this public engagement process is a critical step to ensure the voices of restaurateurs and other community members are considered in developing a sustainable and transformative system for our city's streetscape, neighborhoods, economy, and dining culture. We look forward to working with the City of New York and all stakeholders in designing the future of outdoor dining throughout the five boroughs," said Andrew Rigie, Executive Director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance.
"Outdoor dining has been a lifeline for the city's restaurant industry and demonstrated that there are creative ways to use our streets and sidewalks that can work for business and residents alike," said Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City. "Zoning should not be an inflexible barrier to planning how public space is used in the post-pandemic world, which is why this action is important. It is equally necessary to establish and enforce regulations that ensure Open Restaurants are an amenity that enhances the city and not a nuisance."
"New York City's Open Restaurants program served as a lifeline for local businesses – and we want them to have a seat at the table when it comes to the program's future," said Maulin Mehta, New York Director, Regional Plan Association. "We are pleased to partner with other civic leaders to gather input that will be crucial as we begin to refine and improve the program as it transitions to a permanent part of city life."
"This is a terrific opportunity for New Yorkers to have a say in the future of our city," said Jessica Walker, President and CEO of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. "We can't wait to see ideas that will help ensure the Open Restaurants concept both contributes to our economy and works for all."
"For the past year and a half, outdoor dining has been instrumental to keeping restaurants open and ensuring an active streetscape. The structures created opportunities for placemaking, and allowed creatives, artists and architects to push the boundaries of design," said Jeffrey LeFrancois, Executive Director of the Meatpacking Business Improvement District. "We're thrilled the City is making the program a permanent fixture of New York, and the Meatpacking District looks forward to being a part of the rule making process to ensure continued success of the program."
"The Open Restaurants program has kept restaurants afloat throughout the pandemic while keeping their staff safe and in jobs," said Jessica Katz, Executive Director of Citizens Housing & Planning Council. "We applaud this creative and thoughtful use of public space in a way that benefits New Yorkers' lives. All residents should take advantage of the opportunity to participate in the final design regulations for outdoor dining structures to ensure they reflect the character and spirit of New York."