These dining disasters are turning into hovels for the homeless, giant garbage dumps, and traffic-blocking storage sheds.
Outdoor dining structures that were once meant to pump life into the struggling restaurant industry during the COVID-19 pandemic are now standing abandoned after the eateries have shuttered, or refocused on indoor dining.
Three forsaken al fresco setups sat until recently on just a single previously busy block of LaGuardia Place in Greenwich Village between Houston and Bleecker Streets.
One graffiti-covered outdoor hut belonged to Bosie, a French restaurant that served afternoon tea and whose doors have been padlocked since August. It was removed only late last month.
Next door at Le Souk, which in its pre-COVID glory days boasted belly dancers and a hookah lounge, another wooden structure stood empty.
And the third abandoned setup provided outdoor space for the former GMT Tavern, which closed after a damaging fire on April 19.
“These sheds are an eyesore — people are now depositing garbage in them. Why are they up months after restaurants have shut down?” someone griped in a July complaint to the Department of Buildings, which said no violation was warranted.
But one local resident called the area beneath the dining sheds a “breeding ground” for rats and expressed little hope the structures will be removed anytime soon.
“It’s not economically feasible for the landlords or (former) tenants to take them down, and the city doesn’t have the political will to get it done,” he said.
Leif Arntzen said he sees the homeless sleeping in the dining sheds on his Cornelia Street block “‘all the time” after restaurants close for the evening or on days they are not open.
The covered shed outside the Uncle Chop Chop restaurant, which is a step up from plain plywood, is a popular one, he said.
“I think they pick it because they’ve got this sort of AstroTurf on the pavement that they can just kind of lay down on,” said Arntzen, who is part of the CUEUP alliance which opposes making the “open restaurant” program permanent.
Residents complained last spring about an unused and filthy shed outside Ajisen Ramen on Mott Street in Chinatown becoming sleeping quarters for the homeless. Then the restaurant put doors on it and began using it as a storage locker, with only a lone diner seated inside one recent night, according to a local observer.
The only thing occupying the outdoor shed for Michelin-starred Jua, a Korean restaurant in the Flatiron district, one recent weekday night were cardboard boxes.
Restaurants are not allowed to use their outdoor huts as storage, according to the Department of Transportation, which oversees the open restaurant program.
Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, who represents Greenwich Village, Soho and Tribeca, tweeted Tuesday about an empty structure outside a restaurant that never opened saying “huge structure remains from JUNE with various violations- cease & desist @NYC_DOT & still no action.”
The shed is not abandoned, according to the DOT.
Nearly 12,000 outdoor setups dot city streets, including 1,202 located in the roadway; 4,295 on the sidewalk; and 6,047 that are a combination of both sidewalk and street, according to DOT stats.
The DOT said it considers a dining setup abandoned only if the restaurant is permanently closed. It has directed the Sanitation Department to remove only 21 of these deserted dining dens citywide.
But there are many more that remain.
A total of 136 complaints about abandoned dining setups were placed to 311 between May 6 and Sept. 23, although some were for the same restaurant, city records show.
The Village Den, the restaurant venture from “Queer Eye” host Antoni Porowski, shut its doors in July, leaving the plywood framework for its outdoor dining setup standing empty on West 12th Street.
It took more than two months and many complaints to remove the shed — which had become a storage area — belonging to the former Fabiane’s restaurant on North Fifth Street in Williamsburg.
“It took up metered parking for over two months,” said Shannon Phipps, the head of the Berry St. Alliance in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, who noted there were several other unused setups in the area. “I suspect the longer this program exists, the more these conditions will surface, especially because there is no enforcement, management or oversight.”
Two apparently unused wooden corrals flank the Slaughtered Lamb Pub on West 4th Street. The bar manager said the structures kept getting hit by cars or trucks and he did not want to seat patrons there.
The D.O.C. Wine Bar in Brooklyn had two sheds, one of which was used for storage. A restaurant manager said it was removed last week after the city said it was too close to a fire hydrant.
The restaurant wasn’t the only one flouting the rules.
A City Council survey of 418 downtown Manhattan restaurants released in August found that 93 percent were not complying with at least one DOT guideline including blocked fire hydrants, barriers that extended too far into the street and setups on streets that were too narrow.
The DOT said it was reviewing the locations in the report and would be meeting with Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s office “soon to discuss next steps.”
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