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‘Take Shack’ No More! Burger Restaurant Gives Back Stolen Sidewalk

12:01 AM EDT on May 29, 2020

Shake Shack has pulled in its metal railings so they are finally inside the restaurant’s property line. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Take that "Take Shack"!

The West Village hamburger restaurant that had stolen half of a city sidewalk so its customers could get socially distance as they awaited their fast food orders has been shamed — and officially warned — into giving back the purloined pavement.

how streetsblog covered the take shack story
How Streetsblog covered the story (yes, that's Doug Gordon on a sidewalk).

Earlier this month, Streetsblog exposed how Shake Shack had swiped sidewalks on both Seventh Avenue and Clarkson Street, setting up metal railings to cordon off more than half of the distance between the property line and the curb — a blatant theft of public space during an era when pedestrians are being asked to remain at least six feet from each other.

After our report, Department of Transportation did a site visit that confirmed our findings — and the agency demanded changes.

"We inspected the location last week and the condition was corrected," DOT spokeswoman Lolita Avila told Streetsblog. "No fines were issued."

Streetsblog confirmed the report on Thursday morning, finding that Shake Shack had pulled in those metal railings so that they were just inside the legal property line.

Dark spots on the sidewalk show the original placement of the illegal barricades, as captured by our photographer:

Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

The theft of public space came just as restaurants around the city have been demanding open streets or curbside space for them to operate at full capacity, yet still keep their customers safe from passing around the virus. A coalition of eateries and bars have  been pressuring Mayor de Blasio to reallocate public space from cars to allow restaurants, which employ more than 100,000 people in the city, to jumpstart the economy.

For now, the mayor said he would not include restaurants in his Phase I reopening plan, which will begin in the first or second week of June. The mayor told Streetsblog that it was a "badge of honor" that he waits weeks and weeks, even after other cities have acted.

Cycling advocate Doug Gordon, who first noticed the Shake Shack sidewalk swipe, put the restaurant's return policy in that exact context.

"This isn't really about one restaurant and I don't think we should blame Shake Shack or any restaurant for trying to carve out a little room for their customers to practice social distancing," he said. "We can't have a city policy based on fly-swatting individual violators, but instead need the mayor to come up with a comprehensive plan for how businesses can operate safely without encroaching on precious public space. In a lot of cases, that will mean taking a fresh look at the curbside and using it for a higher purpose than car storage."

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