‘Open Streets’ Town Hall Yields More Questions than Answers

Posted on: January 14th, 2021 at 5:02 am by

Competition for available street space is now at its peak, with these restaurant extensions mingling with construction materials. To this mess, the city intends to introduce “new layers” including Open Stores (non-restaurants) and Open Culture. All ideas idea that have many residents worried that the Lower East Side streetscape will soon look like a shanty town and become a “Bourbon Street style district.”

Community Outreach Reps from a slew of city agencies fielded myriad questions about noise complaints, emergency vehicle and fire hydrant obstruction, late-night drinking, etc. Just a sampling of issues plaguing locals as the City contemplates whether the current health crisis will reveal a new normal or a return to pre-pandemic street space.

One of the last, but perhaps most important, questions posed at the Town Hall was about whether the city would compensate the public for the loss of pedestrian public space. This alone reveals the idea behind Open Streets and Restaurants as an expansion into the public realm, and as a “take” from public space, not a “give.”

The answer provided was that while Open Restaurants does occupy the public realm, it remains a “necessary lifeline” and “economic survival program” for restaurant owners, many of whom are just as confused over ever-changing rules and regulations.

There is a potential future of a permanent restaurant structures along the streets in a post-Covid New York City, but also the real potential that the city will eventually begin to charge fees and require licenses from restaurants for the al-fresco street dining.

In short, Open Streets legislation did not result in an actionable, viable plan. So far, the public, not the private sector, appears to be providing both the leadership and the ability to police and facilitate the Open Streets agenda to guide neighborhoods into the future.

What elected officials have in store for the public, though, remains unclear.

This story has multiple pages:

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