Sunday, December 5

Rats, trash, noise and traffic: neighbors sue the mayor for makeshift restaurants on New York sidewalks and streets

Tables on sidewalks and streets of the iconic West Village, NYC.

Photo: Andrés Correa Guatarasma / Courtesy

A group of NYC residents have filed a lawsuit against the city to try to prevent the restaurants that expanded during the pandemic from becoming permanent, arguing that they affect quality of life.

The pandemic left a big change in the urban landscape, reducing sidewalks, parking lots and streets in favor of food establishments, with makeshift structures that have generated more trash, rats, noise, homelessness and traffic NYC was already used to.

“Before your application to make the temporary open restaurant program permanent, [el Departamento de Transporte de la ciudad, DOT] He received thousands of complaints from residents related to noise, vermin, accumulation of garbage, crowded sidewalks that impede access by residents, all of them quality of life problems that consist of a significant impact on the environment ”, says the lawsuit filed last week in the Manhattan Supreme Court.

“In spite of the clear evidence of these adverse effects, DOT still issued a negative statement, excluding the need for a more intensive study of projected effects, alternatives, and mitigation measures, ”the filing continues.

On June 18, the DOT determined that if the expanded outdoor restaurant program were to go into effect permanently, it would not have a negative environmental effect on residents. This allows the city to bypass a public review process normal to fully assess the impacts of the measure and circumvent rezoning lawsthe lawsuit states.

The DOT recommendation now goes to the City Council, which will decide whether to accept it and make the outdoor areas permanent, as the overhang wants. Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The DOT and the city’s Department of Sanitation have removed only 24 of the hundreds of street eaters established since July 2020 in the name of social distancing. In many cases, restaurants have more than doubled their capacity at the cost of public spaces, a measure initially planned to compensate for closure during lockdown.

Of those 24 recalls, eight were due to non-compliance and the rest were found abandoned or already destroyed, the DOT said. The violations included blocking a fire hydrant, bus stop or lane.

The lawsuit was filed by 23 Manhattan and Brooklyn residents, and it is asking a judge to reverse the DOT’s recommendation to allow existing temporary settings to become permanent. For them they present case studies of the alleged bad personal experiences of each of the residents with the programa “Open Restaurants” (Open Restaurants) from the city.

One of the plaintiffs, Kathryn Arntzen, has been living with her husband on the tree-lined Cornelia Street in Greenwich Village in Manhattan for 32 years, but complains that she no longer even recognizes her street, which now has seven restaurants with outdoor seating, music, and televisions, plus noise from customers. Too, trash always piles up outside of restaurants and “The rat population has grown enormously”, while a reported increase in human cases of leptospirosis, rodent-borne bacterial disease.

Ironically, “social distancing is almost impossible”, affirms the complaint. Plaintiffs’ attorney, Michael Sussman, summarized that “The city owes citizens to follow the law. It is really quite simple. You have to comply with very basic rules to implement important changes in public policies, and that simply has not been done here “he said to New York Post.

Sussman added that if the proposal passes permanently, it would “gut” hundreds of zoning provisions. “These acts require the study of environmental aspects: noise, sanitation, parking and quality of life. These are all factors that are supposed to be carefully analyzed before implementing these changes. (At DOT) they said they found no significant impact, which is impossible. “

A spokesperson for the City Legal Department stated that “The city’s environmental review was thorough, complete and did not find any adverse impacts. This is the first step in building an ongoing program, and New Yorkers will continue to have opportunities to share their thoughts on how Open Restaurants structures should be designed. ”

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