LATEST NEWS Another NIMBY lawsuit targets New York City's cookout program

Another NIMBY lawsuit targets New York City’s cookout program

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A new demand could put an end to New York City’s popular cookout program.

the costumewhich names New York City and New York State as defendants, was filed last week by about three dozen city residents in the New York Supreme Court. a lifeline during the Covid pandemic by allowing them to create outdoor dining structures along the respective streets and sidewalks of the city where they operate, constitutes an “illegal invasion of [the city’s] public sidewalks, streets[,] and roads in the no longer viable terrain of a ‘public health emergency.'”

The plaintiffs claim that the expansion of outdoor dining in the city under the TOR program has negatively affected their quality of life. Among the various “injuries and indignities” and other “substantial externalities” the lawsuit alleges are “increased and excessive noise, traffic congestion, uncontrolled litter and rodent populations, the blocking of sidewalks and highways, causing petitioners and others cannot navigate safely”. city ​​streets and sidewalks, and a decrease in parking that some petitioners rely on.”

In response to the new demand, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a supporter of expanding outdoor dining options, said the program is essential for the city, but admits that some changes may be necessary. “[W]Anything you can do to help our restaurant industry that employs dishwashers, waiters, busboys and girls, this is an important industry and it’s a marker for our city,” Adams said. “And then the lawsuit will resolve itself. But I am a fan of outdoor dining.”

New York City’s TOR program, authorized by state law, has been in place since June 2020, when it was implemented under then-Mayor Bill de Blasio. He intended to reduce Covid infections while helping restaurant owners and workers survive the double whammy of the virus and related restrictions on indoor dining.

“The program has been so successful that legislators have moved to make it permanent,” I told him. explained in a column last fall in which I also noted that more than 12,000 restaurants in the city had benefited from the program.

But as I also explained, about two dozen Manhattan residents south the city last September about the TOR program. That complaint was filled with tired city dweller complaints about noise, parking, traffic, rats, and litter on the one hand and superfluous objections on the other, including laments from a whiny plaintiff who said in an affidavit that his street was once his home. to a lot of little mom-and-pop stores, but that”[n]There are large corporations that own quite a few buildings.” Other sources offered similar criticism of the lawsuit. As I also reported, gothamist he referred to many of the complaints found in the lawsuit as “a word cloud of common complaints” about life in the city.

In March, a court ruled against the city, the restaurant owners, and their workers and customers. in its ruler, Judge Frank Nervo determined that the city should conduct a study on the environmental impacts of the TOR program, “including noise, traffic and parking, sanitation, and neighborhood character.” Instead of conducting a study, the city issued an environmental assessment statement, which found “no significant environmental impacts from instituting a permanent dining room program.” In his ruling, Judge Nervo determined that the city “failed to consider the likelihood [of] ongoing environmental impacts” of the TOR program.

The complaint filed last week alleges that while other Covid-related programs and local mask and vaccine mandates ended over the past year, the TOR program continues despite “[r]restaurants, bars[,] and taverns in New York City are now able to utilize their indoor capacity at pre-pandemic occupancy levels, and are doing so across the city.”

Is there a way for restaurants and others to offer outdoor dining in structures located along city streets and sidewalks? The complaint itself, which is largely based on the assumption that “there is no public health emergency and therefore no premise for the terms of reference,” may suggest one. Although New York City may not have had a current public health emergency when this TOR lawsuit was filed last week, exactly one day after it was filed the city declared a new public health emergency, this over a outbreak of monkeypox. (There is a public health emergency the city could argue in response to the complaint, and therefore there is a premise for TOR.)

A better way forward would be for city officials to address resident complaints, which are, again, the same ones city residents have had for generations about rats, litter, parking and the like, while continuing to allow place outdoor dining structures along sidewalks. and streets

“I have no doubt that some of these resident complaints are validI explained in my column about the lawsuit that was filed last fall. “But outdoor dining didn’t cause most of these problems, which predict the pandemic. New York City officials can and should do a better job of addressing residents’ concerns. But the city can and should also use existing mechanisms to deal with rats, noise, litter and other problems.”

Allowing more outdoor dining spaces was a great idea pre-Covid. Yet. And it’s one that I hope will survive the pandemic, in New York City and beyond.

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