NYC Restaurants in Search of Foot Traffic Can Apply to DOT

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The businesses next to the city's first pop-up cafe, on Pearl Street, say it's been a boon for foot traffic and profits. Photo: NYC DOT

A few months after launching the city’s first “pop-up café on Pearl Street in Lower Manhattan, NYC DOT is putting out a call to other businesses who might be interested in reclaiming curbside spaces to make way for seasonal sidewalk extensions, tables, and seating. The department announced today that it’s seeking applications [PDF] to expand the pop-up café program to as many as 12 locations throughout the five boroughs next year.

Implicit in the program is the message that foot traffic and high-quality public space have greater value for street-level businesses than car storage. The two restaurants who sponsored the Pearl Street project, Fika Espresso Bar and Bombay’s, say business is up as much as 14 percent since the pop-up café was installed in August, according to DOT’s press release.

“Small businesses are the backbone of New York City’s economy and we need to do everything we can to help them through today’s difficult economic climate,” said DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan in a statement. “The City’s first Pop-up Café has been both an innovative public space and also an economic boon, and now enterprises across the city can buy in to this cost-effective, creative use of our streets.”

In San Francisco, where curbside reclamation projects are called “parklets,” the planning department released a similar request earlier this year after piloting the idea in two locations. The original inspiration for both programs, of course, is Park(ing) Day, which was recently observed for the fifth year in cities around the world.

The NYC public space expansions will be available to restaurants on streets where regular sidewalk café licenses are not permitted, and which have the support of the local community board to reclaim the curb. Restaurants have to apply by December 3 to be considered for next year’s program.

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