November 29, 2023
by: Bria Donohue
outdoor dining in front of a bar
Outdoor dining in lower Manhattan. Photo via Flickr by @edenpictures.

Last week, AIA New York testified at the Department of Transportation (DOT)’s hearing on the proposed rules for the permanent outdoor dining program, Dining Out NYC. AIANY has been a long-time advocate for making the outdoor dining program permanent, and our comments outline ways to make the implementation of the program as successful as possible.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the temporary outdoor dining program served as a lifeline for restaurants. After more than a year of negotiations, Intro 31-C was signed into law by Mayor Adams in August 2023, creating a permanent outdoor dining program in NYC. Dining Out NYC demonstrates how the city is reimagining the use of public space to improve quality of life and create vibrant, safe, and accessible outdoor dining experiences. The permanent program allows for sidewalk cafes to operate year-round and roadway dining to operate from April to November. DOT’s proposed rules provide valuable guidance on the design requirements for outdoor dining structures, with a focus on maintaining accessibility and sanitation.

AIANY made the following recommendations to DOT:

  • Provide clarity on design requirements for slopes, accessibility, alternative materials to fill barriers other than water, easily removable umbrellas and coverings, and screening on roadway side of structures.
  • Host design competition to give design professionals an opportunity to demonstrate the possibilities for the design of dining structures with the permanent program rules for restaurant owners to use as a reference and guide.
  • Clarify and restructure the timeline for applications, compliance, and removal. Decouple the application timeline from the compliance date. Restaurants should have the flexibility to apply for outdoor dining setups prior to the November 1, 2024 removal deadline. This would allow approved and compliant setups to be built before the deadline, without risk of demolition and waste. This would create an incentive for restaurants to submit their applications to the permanent program early and would reduce waste while also giving DOT a head start in evaluating applications prior to the start of the 2025 seasonal program.
  • Provide clear guidance for denied applications on the reason the application was not approved to allow restaurant owners to remedy their application to appropriately comply with the program rules.
  • Add section on the waste removal plan and rules for the temporary program structures with the Department of Sanitation.

Read AIANY’s full comments here.


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