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STREETFILMS: Open Streets for Restaurants Explained

9:03 AM EDT on May 19, 2020

Restaurants have embraced outdoor dining, and the mayor is giving them even more street space. But the city must ensure that private interests don’t overwhelm public needs in outdoor space. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

"Open space is literally going to save the city," a restaurant owner says at the opening of one of Streetfilms' most ambitious coronavirus videos exploring the need for the city to reclaim roadways from cars and repurpose them as outdoor dining zones.

The restaurateur, John Clement of Clem's, is one of more than a half-dozen hospitality industry workers and owners who have been begging city officials to vastly expand the open streets program — now at 21 miles of roadways, a plurality inside parks — to include hundreds of miles of roads for al fresco dining.

It will be a shot in the arm of a major industry and its workers — and a boost to the city, argue the eateries in Clarence Eckerson's indelible film (which will hopefully make it into Mayor de Blasio's press clips tomorrow).

Please watch and share:

City officials say multiple agencies — the Department of Transportation, the Economic Development Corporation, the Office of Nightlife and Small Business Services — are working on a plan. Mayor de Blasio was asked about opening up roadways for restaurants on NY1 on Monday night. Here's what he said:

Mayor: It's a really interesting idea, and it's a very appealing idea. We're not there yet because, as you know, it's not going to be until June that we even can consider any kind of relaxation. And restaurants and cafes where that's going to fit in the timeline, we're not there yet. That, you know, anytime you're talking about gathering people together, we've got to get it right in terms of health and safety. But I'm very intrigued — the idea of using outdoor space more, we have to find out the formula to do it safely. What we saw this weekend [people gathering at restaurants] wasn't safe, and, again, NYPD, sheriff, other agencies will show up to any bars where people are congregating. When the authorities show up, you better scatter. If you don't, you're going to get us summons.

As a service to the mayor, we'll embed a countdown clock set to zero out on June 7, when the state's stay-at-home order may be over. Restaurants can't wait until August for the city to figure this out:

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