Dozens of Outdoor Dining Piazzas to Add Weekday Hours as Mayor Hints Open Streets Will Return Next Year

The open dining street on Vanderbilt Avenue. File photo: Gersh Kuntzman
The open dining street on Vanderbilt Avenue. File photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Roughly half of the city’s 87 weekend dining streets will expand to include weekday hours, Mayor de Blasio said Wednesday after also announcing that city’s open-streets program, which was created to allow for socially distanced recreation throughout the coronavirus pandemic, should return every summer.

The “open streets: restaurants” program, which bars cars from entire roadways for weekend outdoor dining, will now include 40 locations throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx for weekday use, too, the mayor said.

“Restaurants deserve every chance they can get to serve more customers this fall – and, as the weather gets cooler, New Yorkers deserve every chance they can get to enjoy outdoor dining,” he said, responding to complaints from the restaurant industry that indoor dining, which returns at 25 percent capacity on Sept. 30, won’t be enough to save the industry. “The Open Streets: Restaurants program has been a success, and we’re proud to grow its reach and give restaurants more tools to make it through this crisis.”

[Hours and days vary dramatically, so check the Department of Transportation’s master list here before seeking al fresco dining. Currently, the program is set to wrap on Oct. 31, though the mayor is under pressure to let restaurants continue deeper into the fall.]

One of the seven-days-a-week open dining areas will be on 70th Road between Austin Street and Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills, whose chamber of commerce president hailed the mayor’s expansion of the program.

“The open streets program has really helped the restaurants that have been able to participate,” said Leslie Brown. “As we are not ready for full capacity indoor dining being able to be outside with extended seats seven days a week is a win for these restaurant owners. The community loves outdoor dining, too!”

The new expansion comes as the mayor reiterated for a second straight day news he had broken earlier in the summer: that the city would permanently allow restaurants to keep using curbside space for outdoor warm-weather dining next year and in perpetuity.

But the mayor went a step further by suggesting that the entire open streets program — which has reached about 80 miles of car-free roadways and temporary protected bike lanes — should return every summer.

“I think open streets have been a great success. We should do that every summer. I think that’s the future of New York City,” Hizzoner said.

The mayor committed in April to opening up 100 miles of streets throughout the five boroughs for socially responsible recreation or transportation during the COVID-19 crisis. The program has been criticized for initially leaving out neighborhoods hardest hit by the deadly virus. But some of the open streets have become so popular that politicians have demanded they become permanent fixtures.

Queens Council Member Danny Dromm demanded that 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights and Corona be made permanently car-free, and Brooklyn Council Member Antonio Reynoso said that the city should restrict traffic on Berry Street in Williamsburg permanently to buses, bikes, and pedestrians — with no private cars — effectively turning it into a busway.

“Berry should be a busway both ways, no cars, just buses, express buses — whatever the BQX wanted to do in bus format,” said Reynoso, who represents Williamsburg, said during a virtual Council oversight hearing last week.

But what open streets will return next year is another question entirely. With the city already shy of the promised 100 miles, the DOT has been quietly removing many open streets — mostly claiming that they were not being used in the predicted manner. A staffer at Transportation Alternatives has been logging the removals, which now includes 26 road segments (see list, below).

These open streets have been closed back up. Source: Transportation Alternatives
These open streets have been closed back up. Source: Transportation Alternatives