What to Know
- Outdoor dining resumed Thursday for regions in Phase II, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday; NYC is on track to enter Phase I on Monday
- NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio revealed a plan to help restaurants promote outdoor dining safely when the city enters Phase II; it involves curbside seating, open streets and sidewalk seating
- The development comes amid ongoing tragedy. On Thursday, confirmed virus deaths in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut topped 40,000, but officials acknowledge the actual toll is likely far higher
With New York City poised to end its months-long COVID-19 shutdown in the coming days, Mayor Bill de Blasio is already looking ahead. He announced a plan Thursday to temporarily use open space to provide city restaurants with more outdoor dining areas, eliminating red tape they'd otherwise face in the process.
Outdoor dining is now allowed in Phase II of New York's reopening, a change Gov. Andrew Cuomo quietly announced in a midday news release Wednesday rather than at his daily briefing earlier in the day. Seven regions already in Phase II can start offering al fresco Thursday. New York City will enter Phase I on Monday, which allows for 400,000 more people to return to work next week.
Many of those employees will return to a transit system that's seen a 90 percent drop in ridership over the course of the pandemic, and faces questions on how to maintain social distancing. The MTA installed new, no-touch payment scanners in half the subway stations to help prevent some contact, and is asking city hall for 60 miles of priority bus lanes in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Staten Island.
But if the city follows the course of other regions, that first phase will last just a few weeks.
De Blasio said Thursday New York City could enter Phase II as early as the beginning of July. He pledged to help small businesses get back on their feet, including the eateries that are so much a part of the vibrant fabric that makes New York New York.
“New York’s restaurants are part of what makes us the greatest city in the world. They’ve taken a hit in our fight against COVID-19 – and there’s no recovery without them,” de Blasio said in a statement Thursday. “Our Open Restaurants plan will help these businesses maximize their customer base while maintaining the social distancing we need to beat this crisis once and for all.”
The Open Restaurants seating program includes the following elements:
1. CURBSIDE SEATING:
Once NYC enters Phase II, restaurants will be able to convert parking spaces in order to use the roadbed alongside the curb for dine-in service. There will be a simple process to register and self-certify for free online, the mayor's office said.
Restaurants must ensure accessible seating away from intersections and protect nearby bus stops and fire hydrants. They need to provide their own vertical barricades, planters, tables, and chairs. The Department of Transportation will provide guidance in the coming weeks on the type of barricades and planters should be used.
2. OPEN STREETS
The city is about halfway to its goal of 100 miles of open streets. Restaurants on those marked streets will be able to use those to create seating areas directly in front of their establishments. The city will also identify new open streets on commercial strips with a large presence of restaurants and bars as it continues to roll out new corridors in the coming weeks and months.
Additionally, each restaurant can claim the spaces immediately in front of their storefront for parking, depending on the current curb lane use. This includes parking spaces with meters, according to the mayor's office.
3. SIDEWALK SEATING
The city will work to create a simpler, streamlined process for sidewalk seating that would require establishments to maintain appropriate clear paths for pedestrians and people with disabilities.
Several city agencies will monitor the three-pronged program and step in should concerns arise about accessibility or social distancing on sidewalks, curb lanes or streets.
The development comes amid ongoing tragedy in the tri-state area, even as daily deaths decline. On Thursday, confirmed virus deaths in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut topped 40,000, though officials admit the actual toll is likely much higher.
Region by Region Status
Source: New York State; Report as of May 18