Job Opening of the Day: Director of Open Restaurants at DOT (Wait, at DOT?!)

If outdoor dining had been a thing back in the sad 1940s, maybe Edward Hopper's classic painting, "Nighthawks," would have turned out different. Photo: The Streetsblog Photoshop Desk
If outdoor dining had been a thing back in the sad 1940s, maybe Edward Hopper's classic painting, "Nighthawks," would have turned out different. Photo: The Streetsblog Photoshop Desk

Well, at least one agency thinks it’s going to be running the Open Restaurant program.

The Department of Transportation is dangling a six-figure job, “Director of Open Restaurants,” on the city careers website — an indication that the agency believes it will prevail in the Adams administration’s fight to keep the streets agency overseeing the economy-boosting outdoor dining program as it has since its Covid-era inception.

We are literally all over this story.
We are literally all over this story.

The City Council, however, wants the program to move to the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, a move disliked by advocates, who believe DOT will do a better job overseeing public space (and, indeed, considering the roadway public space) than the agency that “protects and enhances the daily economic lives of New Yorkers,” according to its website.

Council Member Marjorie Velazquez, whose bill is moving through the Council, did not immediately respond to an email asking to discuss the job posting, which was quietly posted on Oct. 6 — well after the Council’s preference was known and the Adams administration began pushing back on it.

A DOT spokesman said the job was posted simply because the Covid-era emergency program is currently overseen by the DOT and the Council bill remains unpassed. The agency referred Streetsblog to City Hall’s prior comment:

The Adams administration is working closely with our partners in the City Council to craft a permanent outdoor dining program that all New Yorkers can be proud of — that means protecting the 100,000 jobs it saved at the height of the pandemic and creating even more, continuing to drive our economic recovery, and prioritizing cleanliness and quality of life. We believe that is best achieved through a single, streamlined program continuing under DOT, which has effectively led multiagency teams overseeing both sidewalk cafe and roadway dining over the last two years, and which has a proven track record of standing up a widely popular, highly successful, and now strongly enforced program.

So here’s who the DOT is looking for to fill the position, which can pay between $78,128 and $118,657, depending on experience:

The Director will lead and oversee the planning, development, and implementation of the program ensuring strict compliance to internal controls and adherence to standardized policies. The Director will be responsible for directly supervising a planning and operational team who will review submissions from restaurant owners, coordinate planning and enforcement with various other DOT units and City agencies, and prepare agreements for and hold public hearings regarding restaurant applications. In addition, the selected candidate will prepare appropriate reports, perform analyses, and make recommendations on policies and procedures.

The only specific requirements? A college degree and “two years of satisfactory full-time experience in city planning” or “a satisfactory combination of education and/or experience that is equivalent,” such as graduate-level training in city planning or urban design.

Excellent communication skills are recommended — and speaking more than one language is “a plus.”

Advocates will likely be pleased seeing the DOT job posting.

“It’s our understanding that putting the program with DCWP would essentially kill it, because they don’t have the budget, the personnel, or the expertise to manage the program,” Sara Lind, the chief strategy officer with Open Plans (full disclosure: a sister organization of Streetsblog), said earlier this week. “It would basically be taking the program and focusing it solely on businesses rather than on public space.”

And former DOT Deputy Commissioner Michael Replogle also thinks the program should stay with DOT.

“It’s been a successful program under DOT, why rock the boat?” said Replogle, who left the agency in the summer of 2021. “If some other agency takes it over, they are going to have to consult with DOT anyway about the program.”