NYC begins removing unused, derelict outdoor dining sheds

August 18, 2022 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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While the problem of abandoned outdoor dining sheds has given rise to community complaints, it seems to be mainly a Manhattan problem, and on the whole, Brooklyn restaurants and their dining sheds are doing well — with some exceptions.

The outdoor dining program has been widely hailed as having saved the restaurant industry during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

However, as some restaurants have gone out of business, their outdoor sheds have remained. Sometimes these sheds are used by people having sex or using drugs; and more often they fill up with garbage, attracting rats and other vermin.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Thursday announced a new, multiagency enforcement initiative focused on spotlighting open and active outdoor dining sheds in the city’s Open Restaurants program and removing abandoned sheds that were formerly part of restaurants that have now shut down. 

As part of this initiative, he announced the completion of an initial blitz in which the city removed 24 identified sheds outside now-closed restaurants in the matter of a few days. These abandoned sheds have, in many cases, fallen into disrepair and created conditions that facilitate illicit and illegal behavior. They represent only a small minority of the nearly 13,000 Open Restaurants participants.

“These deserted dining sheds have become eyesores for neighbors and havens for rats, and we are going to tear them down. And, with this initiative, we are also taking the essential step towards a permanent Open Restaurants program that all New Yorkers can be proud of every day,” he said.

The business community has been supportive of Adams’ plan to oversee and regulate the program.

“Outdoor dining was proven to be one of the most effective business support strategies New York City implemented during COVID,” said Randy Peers, president and CEO, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. 

“As we continue to move forward with business recovery, however, it’s essential we recalibrate our strategies and focus on quality-of-life issues. Removing abandoned and unkempt outdoor dining sheds is the right approach for both the community and those businesses that continue to use outdoor dining responsibly and successfully,” he added.

“It’s great news that Mayor Adams announced the city will remove abandoned outdoor dining structures that shuttered during the pandemic and will focus on revitalizing dilapidated ones as we transition out of the temporary emergency program that saved countless small businesses and jobs,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of New York City Hospitality Alliance, one of the biggest supporters of the program. 

The city’s move comes after a lawsuit by a group of community activists who want all 12,000 of these sheds removed.  According to PIX 11 News, Robert Camacho, the president of Community Board 4 in Bushwick, is one of 35 plaintiffs in the lawsuit. 

“The sheds are not working,” he told PIX. “It’s creating an unsafe environment, rodents, noise in the night, kids having sex, shooting up.”

The New York Post last year spotlighted efforts, eventually successful, to remove a shed that belonged to the former Fabiane’s restaurant on North Fifth Street in Williamsburg. “It took up metered parking for over two months,” the Post quoted Shannon Phipps, the head of the Berry Street Alliance in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, as saying. “I suspect the longer this program exists, the more these conditions will surface.”

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