New York City Mayor Eric Adams said Thursday the city has begun demolishing outdoor dining sheds that popped up during the pandemic but are no longer being used and causing quality-of-life problems.
Mr. Adams, a Democrat, said an “initial blitz” identified 24 dormant sheds outside now-closed restaurants within a few days.
His office said the sheds have fallen into disrepair, create visual blight, attract vermin and are being used as makeshift homeless shelters. Some are serving as dumping grounds for trash or blocking catch basins for street drainage, the mayor’s office said.
“Outdoor dining has transformed New York City and saved 100,000 jobs during the pandemic, but we cannot allow abandoned dining sheds to litter our streets,” Mr. Adams said. “These deserted dining sheds have become eyesores for neighbors and havens for rats, and we are going to tear them down.”
The Open Restaurants program allows eateries to use the sidewalk and curbside road space in front of their restaurants for outdoor dining. It was born of necessity as diners flocked to open-air establishments to avoid the coronavirus in indoor areas. It proved to be popular, and the city made it permanent.
Mr. Adams said he dined outside in Manhattan late Wednesday but added that the city can’t let dormant sheds besmirch the program, which has 13,000 participants.
“I want to say it loud and clear: Outdoor dining is here to stay,” Mr. Adams said.
The mayor urged New Yorkers to call 311 if they spot an abandoned dining shed.
Mr. Adams said Deputy Mayor Meera Joshi is leading the effort with a task force that includes the city’s Department of Transportation and Department of Sanitation.
The New York City Parks Department assisted with the initial removals and the New York City Police Department is helping out where necessary for public safety.
The Adams team said it has identified additional empty sheds and 37 sheds described as “egregious violators” of the program’s rules.
Mr. Adams said restaurants whose sheds violate the rules will be inspected three times, with two warnings before a termination letter after the third visit.
After removal, the DOT will store the structure for 90 days. If the owner does not reclaim it, then DOT will get rid of it.