Dept of Transportation Decides to Get into the Entertainment Business

 

In case you were missing a sidewalk cafe on your block, never fear, DOT will install one in your roadbed !

On Wed., 3/9 @ 6:30 PM-NYU Meyer Building, 4 Washington Pl. Room 122, the NYC Dept. of Transportation (DOT) will explain the new pop-up cafe program.  You should really plan to be there to get the details in person, but if you can’t….

While NoHo doesn’t have any initial applicants on this agenda, it could be much affected by future applications, as would other neighborhoods and streets within CB#2 – perhaps the most populated by restaurants, sidewalk cafes, street fairs and special event permits, already.  The, perhaps unintended, ramifications of this program and its lack of attention to crucial details is astounding.

If the information at http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/sidewalks/popupcafe.shtml is accurate, and unless the applications and guidelines linked to at this site have been updated, then, we would pose the following as observations/questions regarding this program, which was evidently launched last spring with little or no public input. 

Pop-Up Café Program Highlights:

  • These installations are ONLY allowed where sidewalk café’s ARE NOT ALLOWED or where sidewalks aren’t wide enough for DCA regulated sidewalk cafés.  [In effect, this opens every single street that currently prohibits sidewalk cafes, to commercial incursions on the roadbed, regardless of your zoning envelope or any other DCP regulation !!!]
  • These paid installations can operate the same as sidewalk café hours.  Till midnight Sun thru Wednesday, till 1 am Thurs thru Saturday.  The streets that would be included in this program are highly residential (thus the initial sidewalk café prohibition)…or in the case of narrow sidewalks, highly dense and likely narrow of streetbed.
  • The initially applying entity may “Assign” their agreement to a THIRD PARTY. [Article 10, paragraph 10.1]  So, on a Saturday night when the outside lights and noises are way-beyond civil – who’s in charge? 
  • Only DOT can terminate the contract and the only definitions for warrant of termination have to do with maintenance of a platform and cleaning of the curbside gutter [no DOH or DCA requirements are enforceable according to the sample contract provided].  Further ARTICLE 25: paragraph 25.1 states:  No officer, agent, or employee of DOT or the City shall be charged personally with any liability or held liable under any term or provision of this Agreement by reason of any breach or alleged breach thereof.  What? 

Among the absent details: 

  • Can liquor be served?, How will the SLA interface with DOT who enforces the plan? E.g. underage drinking.  In the supplied sample contract there is NO mention regarding the allowance or dis-allowance of alcohol service…or even any reference to existing statutes preventing consumption of alcohol on streets or in parks.  
  • What are the fines for abusing the plan – e.g. spreading the platform on Saturdays…adding tables and chairs, using heat lamps, service carts?  Such circumstances are extremely common in Sidewalk Café hearings.  BTW – DOT has No enforcement personnel on weekends or evenings, without special budget accommodation from your precinct. 
  • And why would a Traffic and Transportation Committee of a Community Board OR a Traffic and Transportation Agency of NYC be in charge of granting or oversight of a Food and beverage vending entity?

Oh, btw, the streetbed platforms will replace parking spaces.  Well, OK we are supposed to reduce cars in Manhattan, we’ve got that part.  But what DOT doesn’t get is that the largest number of restaurants on streets where such Pop-Up Cafes will be permitted are groundfloor tax payers to residential buildings   So, with a permanent platform in front of your apartment, brownstone, co-op or condo, how do you get picked up or dropped off by a cab, an ambulette?  How does one load or unload groceries, furniture?  How does an emergency vehicle rescue anyone in your building?

You can read a bit more at:  http://gothamist.com/2010/11/16/pop-up_cafes_the_dots_solution_to_p.php  or from http://www.dnainfo.com/20101111/downtown/more-sidewalk-cafes-pop-up-on-city-streets-next-year

Update 3/4/11:  You may also find recent NY Times coverage of DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan illuminating

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