NYC pandemic-era outdoor dining sheds destroying quality of life with rats, drugs, noise: suit

by admin

A group of Big Apple residents have slapped the city with a lawsuit opposing an outdoor street dining program started during the pandemic – claiming it has increased trash, vermin, drug use, graffiti, noise and awful stenches throughout the boroughs.

The lawsuit was filed by 35 people who live in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx who are challenging the Temporary Open Restaurant program meant to help eateries and bars stay afloat during the COVID-19 outbreak by allowing them to expand seating outdoors.

But the residents note that other pandemic-era rules, like those involving masks, vaccines and social distancing, have ended as the outbreak has eased, and argued there is no longer justification to continue the TOR program on an emergency basis — especially since the dining sheds have led to the decline of their neighborhoods, according to the Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit filed late Friday.

“The open restaurant program has transformed what used to be a pleasant city block with a healthy balance of commercial and residential use into a gritty, shanty streetscape fueled by alcohol sales and marked by sanitation and noise violations,” wrote one of the plaintiffs, Douglas Armer, in a court filing.

Armer says the program has harmed his family’s quality of life in their neighborhood around East 20th Street between Broadway and Park Avenue South.

The dining sheds have long become an eyesore, many residents argue.
G.N.Miller/NYPost
The sheds are little more than a breeding ground for vermin, the suit claims.
The sheds are little more than a breeding ground for vermin, the suit claims.
G.N.Miller/NYPost

The sheds “harbor vermin, collect food waste and impede garbage collection” and there is broken glass and standing water in the gutters, according to an affidavit he filed in the case.

In addition to the structures causing crowding on the sidewalks, “the ‘party’ atmosphere created by the mass of intoxicated patrons is intimidating for young children, casual passersby and residents alike,” Armer’s affidavit says.

Angela Bilotti of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, says the sheds have increased rodents, garbage and mosquitoes and a “horrendous” stench sets in after storms leave standing water at the edge of the walls.

The rats have become such a problem that “during evening dog walks you can even hear rats fighting under the shed floors or they run across the sidewalk and street in numbers,” Bilotti wrote in a court filing.

Residents note other pandemic-era rules have ended as the outbreak has eased, and argued there is no longer justification to continue the TOR program.
Residents note other pandemic-era rules have ended as the outbreak has eased, and argued there is no longer justification to continue the TOR program.
Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images
The lawsuit was filed by 35 people who live in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx who are challenging the Temporary Open Restaurant Program.
The lawsuit was filed by 35 people who live in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx who are challenging the Temporary Open Restaurant program.
Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

“Riding my bike means dodging rat roadkill,” she wrote.

Brooklyn Community Board 4 chair Robert Camacho says in Bushwick, many restaurants are using the sheds for storage instead of outdoor dining.

Kids also use some of these unoccupied structures to drink and get high, and people leave empty bottles and condoms inside, Camacho said.

Accumulated water and garbage by the sheds have caused them to smell “like urine and human feces,” he wrote in his affidavit.

Accumulated water and garbage by the sheds has caused it to smell "like urine and human feces."
Accumulated water and garbage by the sheds has caused them to smell “like urine and human feces.”
Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Michael Sussman, a lawyer for the residents, said the TOR program was implemented without public input due to the public health emergency declared during COVID.

“We didn’t challenge it because the emergency was still going on,” Sussman told The Post. “But when the emergency ends, you can’t just say there is a still an emergency.”

“That’s a dangerous precedent,” he added. “What else can they do? We will have martial law. You can’t run a city that way.”

This is the second lawsuit that Sussman has brought against the city over the outdoor dining program.

ooklyn Community Board 4 Chair Robert Camacho says in Bushwick, many restaurants are using the sheds for storage instead of outdoor dining.
Brooklyn Community Board 4 chair Robert Camacho says in Bushwick, many restaurants are using the sheds for storage instead of outdoor dining.
Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Last year, he filed suit on behalf of another group of city residents opposing the outdoor dining program becoming permanent.

That suit is being appealed by the city after the residents successfully argued that officials did not conduct a proper public review process on the impact of continuing the outdoor dining program permanently.

The plan to make the program permanent was halted pending the appeal.

The Post last month reported on New Yorkers being disgusted about the city’s stench, which has reached rancid levels.

Mayor Eric Adams at a press conference Monday responded to the lawsuit saying he supports outdoor dining, while acknowledging that “we need to modify … because some of the outdoor dining locations have become a hazard.”

“They have become places that [are] not suitable,” Adams said. “And I think there’s a way to modify to standardize what the structure should look like and they have to be used.”

Still, “It can’t be used for storage, it can’t be used for all other things,” the mayor said. “But I’m in support of the outdoor dining. And I just I believe it was a lifeline for the restaurant industry.”

The governor’s office didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

Additional reporting by Zach Williams

Related Posts

Leave a Comment