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Car Culture

NYC Transforms Site of Award-Winning Outdoor Dining Space Into Street Parking

Two images. One on the left shows Mayor Eric Adams swinging a sledgehammer to knock down an outdoor dining structure in Koreatown last week. On the right, that same spot is now street parking, where three cars, including a huge Cadillac Escalade, sit where the outdoor dining once was.

Before and after (Photos by Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office and Streetsblog)

When Mayor Eric Adams grabbed a sledgehammer and knocked down an unused outdoor dining structure in Koreatown last week, his administration suggested that not all of these hard-won, carless public spaces would revert back to parking.

“I’m open!” Mayor Adams declared, when Streetsblog asked him whether he would support installing plazas, bike racks, bioswales, curb extensions—anything but more car storage for private vehicles.

“We know that the future of New York City is reimagining the use of public space,” Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez said, when this reporter (working for a different publication) asked him if he wanted the spot to be parking once it was gone.

But on Tuesday evening, “the future of New York City” appeared to be two SUVs and a Mercedes sedan parked on 32nd Street where the dining structure once sat.

“Yeah, it’s so sad,” a driver named Francesca told Streetsblog, after she exited her Cadillac Escalade, when we pointed out that her parking spot used to be a place where people gathered to socialize.

But Francesca did say that she prefers plazas to parking. “I can find other parking spaces someplace else,” she said. “Outdoor dining is great.”

The footprint of the old structure—which was designed by Dash Marshall for the 2021 pop-up Maiden Korea, and won an Alfresco NYC award for “outstanding collaboration”—is officially three-hour commercial parking from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

People walk past three parking spots on a busy corner of Koreatown that used to have an outdoor dining structure.
It's like the dining structure was never here! (Streetsblog)
It's like the dining structure was never here! (Streetsblog)

Last week’s press conference was a kick-off of a campaign to rid the city of abandoned and disused dining structures; 25 had already been demolished, and 37 others had been slated for the big Open Street in the sky. The owners of the sheds are given 90 days to collect their property before it’s either auctioned off or trashed. Mayor Adams insisted that now was the time to scrub the city of the unused dining sheds, while the city’s designs for a permanent program are on hold, pending a lawsuit from outdoor dining opponents.

Adams said that this particular dining structure had been a magnet for complaints about public urination and rats (as Streetsblog recently reported, it’s the food, not the structures themselves, that breed the adorable vermin).

“The mayor did a good job here,” Mohammed Chowdhury told Streetsblog on Tuesday evening. Chowdhury said he had operated his food cart on the corner of 32nd and 5th Avenue for decades, and that there are fewer rats around now that the structure is gone. “They’d come crawling up and I’d have to do this”—he loudly snapped a metal container shut—”to make them go away.”

However, Chowdhury did say that many of the rats seemed to be coming from the vacant lot where the Maiden Korea pop-up used to exist, and that they still have a run of the corner. “They need to put some more poison in the holes.” 

That lot was supposed to be a 39-story apartment building, but there’s no evident construction there. A message to the developer, Cottonwood Management, has not been returned. The DOT also did not get back to us before publication.

“This is one of my favorite blocks in the city,” City Council Member Keith Powers, who represents the district, told Streetsblog. “This whole conversation about outdoor dining needs to resume when we figure out what to do with the permanent program.” 

Powers admitted that once a space turns back into street parking, it’s tough to toggle it back, but said that every structure’s fate would have to be determined “case by case,” based on the future framework set up by the City Council, whenever that may be.

All of this sounded reasonable and fine but we pressed him further: was he really OK with letting this particular space store people’s Escalades? “I would love something more interesting here than parking.”

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