Everything is expensive in New York City. Everything except parking your car.
Nearly all of our city's three million on-street parking spaces cost nothing to use. These spaces comprise at least a dozen Central Park's worth of public space that we choose to give to drivers, gratis, provided they get in their cars twice a week and grumble while the street sweeper swooshes away the rat and pigeon carcasses. Cars sit idle 95 percent of the time.
As the pandemic continued, this status quo became less tenable, and the City ceded a handful of these street parking spots to restaurants, who needed more outdoor space so their diners could eat and enjoy themselves and not breathe tiny viruses into each other's head holes. Restaurants, and their employees, were able to survive. New Yorkers overwhelmingly approved. Some even began to wonder why we couldn't use these public spaces for more useful things, like parks, or desperately needed storm drains when the flooding rains come (and the flooding rains are coming more often these days).
Mayor Eric Adams has said that the city council is taking the lead on forging the future of on-street, outdoor dining. And that future looks a lot like parking.
"Outdoor dining, in my perspective, should be sidewalk…the street extensions were designed to be temporary," City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said on Wednesday. (Speaker Adams has also favored parking spaces over bus riders in the recent past.)
Other public officials objected to Adams's statement, including Manhattan Councilmember Erik Bottcher and Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso, who noted that "objectively speaking, [outdoor dining] is a better use of our street space than parking for private vehicles."
"Voters clearly like access to safe, well-managed and joyful public space that’s not dominated by traffic and parked cars," Chelsea Dowell, a spokesperson for Open Plans, a streets advocacy group, told us. "It's a fantastic activation of otherwise wasted curbside space; every outdoor dining site serves far more New Yorkers in a day than a few parked cars do. We'd love to take the speaker to coffee to talk public space at her favorite outdoor spot."
Speaker Adams's office later clarified to City & State that the Speaker was "giving her own perspective," and that dining will be allowed on the street "at certain times," whatever that means. While the city council works out the details, you may want to patronize your local dining shed. Time may be running out.
Here's what else we're reading:
- Speaking of public space, New York City's Economic Development Corporation just booted an extremely popular public space in Red Hook without any warning.
- The saga of Bishop Lamor Whitehead continues: Two people have been charged in robbing the man of the cloth of $1 million in jewelry earlier this summer.
- New images from Rikers Island underscore that it remains a horrific failure to the human beings incarcerated there, and Mayor Adams continues to praise his Correction Commissioner. A rally to pass a bill barring solitary confinement from NYC jails turned ugly when members of the Correction Officers union refused to leave City Hall after their own demonstration:
And finally, a notable New Yorker has fought and won a hard-earned prize and earned a key to the city's heart:
Wait, wrong video, sorry, watch this one.