CUEUP lawsuit over outdoor dining structures dismissed
Photo: Amir Hamja/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Since they were first installed, outdoor dining shacks – aka streeteries – have been the source of many neighborhood disputes over noise, public space and cleanliness. One of them went all the way to the state Supreme Court when 23 residents, mostly from Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side, sued the city to stop the implementation of a permanent program of restaurants open. The group, named the United Coalition for Equitable Urban Policy, argued that the city had not conducted a sufficiently rigorous environmental review of the impacts of streeteries. Yesterday, the state Supreme Court’s appellate division dismissed it.
“In view of the remaining legislative and administrative steps which must be taken by the City before the permanent outdoor dining program is finalized and implemented in place of the temporary program currently in force, the issuance by the City of the negative SEQRA statement was not an act that itself inflicts real, concrete injury,” the court ruling reads. “Furthermore, the motion to quash the statement should have been dismissed as not ripe for judicial review.” In other words, the plaintiffs sued too soon.
Since the outdoor dining emergency relief program launched in 2020, restaurants have been caught in an ever-changing landscape of rules about what exactly they can build, making the program a challenge for many. many small businesses. The Department of Transportation planned to issue rules for the permanent program this year with implementation beginning in 2023, but the lawsuit essentially prevented the agency from taking any action. So far, hints about what the new guidelines will be have not provided more clarity. The DOT indicated earlier this year that it was not considering hangars in the permanent program design standards. Last week, the city council proposed the idea of only having streets in warm weather and President Adrienne Adams said she thinks outdoor dining should be limited to the sidewalk only because they ” occupy cycle paths and parking spaces. It’s hard for restaurants to invest in a truly thoughtful street in this chaotic climate.
Saying that an environmental review is insufficient is a common tactic to block development and construction projects, in the hope that delaying them long enough might persuade developers, or in this case the New York City government, to ‘to abandon. City officials seem thrilled that outdoor dining cleared that legal hurdle. “Now is the time to put permanent design rules in place to ensure this great program continues to thrive for New Yorkers,” the Planning Department tweeted yesterday. “The future of outdoor dining looks bright.” Mayor Adams intervened with a similar sentiment: “This decision is great for New York’s comeback… It’s time for a permanent outdoor dining program that will make ALL New Yorkers proud.” But the plaintiffs seem out of phase: “We still have a case and we will come back” one of them tweeted. Hopefully we’ll have more details on the plan before they do.