New York Construction Report staff writer
A new, multiagency enforcement initiative is underway in New York City, focused on demolishing abandoned sheds that were formerly part of restaurants that have now shut down.
An initial blitz, in which the city removed 24 identified sheds outside now closed restaurants in the matter of a few days is now completed.
Many of the abandoned sheds have fallen into disrepair and created conditions that facilitate illicit and illegal behavior — affecting quality of life in neighborhoods across the city.
Deserted sheds have “distracted from an otherwise popular, successful program, and their removal represents an important step towards a permanent program that all New Yorkers can be proud of, with clear design guidelines and stronger enforcement,” staff said in a news release.
“These deserted dining sheds have become eyesores for neighbors and havens for rats, and we are going to tear them down,” said Mayor Eric Adams. “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.”
The goal is to ensure safe, clean, and sensible structures, and it’s clear that a small universe of these sites is not living up to these standards and the majority of Open Restaurants have “helped to reimagine our streetscape in a positive way,” Adams said, adding the program targets abandoned sheds “that have become eyesores and source of blight, as well as those that pose health and safety risks.”
“The Open Restaurants program was a lifeline for the city’s restaurant industry during the pandemic — it kept restaurants afloat during the hardest of times, enlivened commercial corridors, and set a new example of how we can think about our public street space and sidewalks,” said Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development Maria Torres-Springer.
Having removed the initial 24 abandoned sheds, the task force has begun identifying and removing additional abandoned sheds, investigating another 37 sheds identified as egregious violators of Open Restaurants program guidelines, and reviewing complaints and summons data to identify and remove other abandoned sheds throughout the five boroughs. Sheds reported to be abandoned will be verified as abandoned two separate times before receiving a termination letter, followed by removal and disposal of the shed.
The task force will also review sheds that, while potentially active, are particularly egregious violators of Open Restaurants program guidelines. In these cases, sheds will be inspected three separate times before action is taken.
After each of the first two failed inspections, DOT will issue notices instructing the restaurant owner to correct the outstanding issues; after the third visit, DOT will issue a termination letter and allow 48 hours before issuing a removal notice. DOT will then remove the structure and store it for 90 days — if the owner does not reclaim it in that period, DOT will dispose of the structure.
“Open Restaurants has enabled us to reimagine the use of public space, so we will not let a few bad actors destroy the program for thousands of restaurants that have been great partners and neighbors,” said DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez.
“Open Restaurants has transformed our city’s public realm — and, with this new initiative, Mayor Adams is making sure that outdoor dining continues to work for business owners and New Yorkers,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue. “NYC Parks is proud that our carpenters and maintenance staff assisted in this initial blitz in support of the program’s continued success.”