Testimony in Support of Temporary Outdoor Dining Areas
Consumer Affairs and Business Licensing Committee Testimony on Int. 1957-2020
Thank you, Chair Cohen, for holding this hearing today. We also want to thank Speaker Johnson, Council Member Reynoso, and the other sponsors of this bill. The American Institute of Architects New York, also known as AIA New York, is strongly supportive of the Council’s innovative effort to help restaurants and street vendors, as well as restore normal street life. As architects, we understand the importance of utilizing our open space for a variety of public purposes, including dining.
Nevertheless, some critical changes should be made to the bill in order to protect the safety of the public and ensure its effective enactment. We have attached recommended language revisions which are summarized below. We recognize that the events of the last few days may change the city’s outlook on public space. Therefore, these comments are made solely regarding this bill as currently written, with the understanding that the city may need to adjust its laws and rules regarding access to public space.
The bill currently states that, “a proposed layout for such space may be submitted to the department [of Consumer Affairs] without the seal and signature of an architect or engineer licensed by the state of New York.” As currently written, this bill allows restaurants to undertake unsafe and unsupervised work that bypasses Department of Buildings plan reviews. Rather, the bill should allow restaurants to make minor alterations that do not necessitate the seal and signature of a registered architect or professional engineer.
Furthermore, the bill places the burden largely on the Department of Transportation. Other agencies should be included as well, particularly the Parks Department and Department of City Planning. They supervise parks and privately owned public spaces (POPS), respectively, which should also be considered for temporary outdoor dining areas, where safe. There is no reason to limit this effort to streets and plazas, as parks and POPS also provide opportunities for dining. The city faces the worst financial crisis in nearly fifty years, which means that every agency’s resources will be strapped. Under these circumstances, a single agency should not be held responsible for this bill’s provisions.
While we strongly recommend the Council amend the bill to include these changes and others, we are also very supportive of the concept of the bill. We hope the Council incorporates these comments to write a safer and more effective bill.
Benjamin Prosky, Assoc. AIA
Executive Director, AIA New York
Kim Yao, AIA
2020 President, AIA New York
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