Today’s news:

Trading ‘spaces’! Parking lanes may get sidewalk cafes this summer

The Brooklyn Paper

The only bad thing about our borough’s roads is that there’s no place to sit and have a meal.

Of course, that could change this summer when the city widens a pilot program to allow “pop-up” cafes in the parking lanes of commercial streets like Fifth Avenue or Smith Street.

Such public spaces are level with the sidewalk, have tables and chairs, are ringed with a barrier of planters and typically cost $10,000 to build, according to the city.

The first “pop-up cafe” proved to be a hit in Lower Manhattan last summer, and next year, a dozen more are expected to be built around the city.

Restaurant owners in Park Slope have already started expressing interest.

“It would make the neighborhood cozier,” said Irene Lo Re, the president of the Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District and the owner of Aunt Suzie’s Restaurant. “It would add a dimension of warmth to neighborhood.”

Lo Re added, “It gives the opportunity for more expensive restaurants to reach a different market, and for the cheaper ones to do something fun.”

But many drivers think any loss of parking — especially in Park Slope — isn’t fun at all. The Department of Transportation, which is behind the program, hopes to avoid a kerfuffle over parking by requiring that the local community board approve each café proposal.

“Obviously, there will be an impact on parking,” said Craig Hammerman, the district manager of Community Board 6, which covers the restaurant belt of Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Red Hook. “But there are a lot of people that don’t own cars that this wouldn’t affect at all — they would love the opportunity for more outdoor uses [of the sidewalk].”

The first pop-up café was unveiled last summer on Pearl Street in Manhattan. There, a café called Fika and an Indian restaurant called Bombay’s collaborated and built a public space that occupied the parking in front of both eateries.

It was a stylish wooden platform surrounded by waist-high planters and — best of all— it brought in customers, according to Madeline Hjeln, the manager of Fika.

“It helped business, people liked to hang around there,” said Hjeln. “It really brought some beauty to the street. Normally, it was just commercial trucks out front.”

The Department of Transportation is accepting applications to create pop-up cafes. The application is online at www.nyc.gov/dot. Applications must be received by Friday, Dec. 3.

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Reader Feedback

Al from Park Slope says:
I never understood the allure of eating a nice lunch/dinner on an outside sidewalk with the congestion of people walking past while talking on the phone, smoking or walking their dogs who become very curious as to what Im trying to eat... On top of the loud music from cars, police and ambulance sirens and exhaust from said cars and busses.

I guess to each their own!!!
Nov. 16, 2010, 9:24 am
Lex from Park Slope says:
The DOT will use any excuse to remove parking spaces.

Didn't the DOT just tell us that putting in variable rates on the Muni meters was going to make things perfect. Now, 4 months later, they're proposing to do away with the parking completely.

They lie through their teeth.
Nov. 16, 2010, 10 am
common sense from bay ridge says:
Wow, I can't wait to have a great meal while a garbage truck is idling next to me, on a 90 degree day in August. Good times!!
Nov. 16, 2010, 10:31 am
boof from brooklyn says:
Yep, lex, you're right, it's getting getting closer to perfect.
Nov. 16, 2010, 10:47 am
Jooltman from Park Slope says:
I want to know, how many people drive each day in NYC and how many people walk or use public transportation or bike? I'm guessing the ratio is 1:10. Anyone know? Why should cars get more space than the rest of us?
Nov. 16, 2010, 11:11 am
chris Mcnally from crown heights says:
people love sidewalk cafes! On a summer day i would rather be outside. This plan allows sidewalk cafes where they could not have existed due to narrow sidewalks, it effectively makes the sidewalk wider.

Funny that the business owners are not howling that their deliveries cannot be made or that their customers cannot park. Profit first! Most people walk to restaurants in park slope and carol gardens anyway, they don't need to park. and I happen to know of at least 3 parking garages in the Park Slope area.
Nov. 16, 2010, 11:12 am
Lex from Park Slope says:
"I want to know, how many people drive each day in NYC and how many people walk or use public transportation or bike? I'm guessing the ratio is 1:10. "

@ Jooltman: Not exactly. 28% of New Yorkers get to work by car. 55% take mass transit. 10% walk. 4% work at home.

You know how many commute by bike? .6%.

Full results @ US Census Community Survey - http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/STTable?_bm=y&-context=st&-qr_name=ACS_2009_1YR_G00_S0801&-ds_name=ACS_2009_1YR_G00_&-CONTEXT=st&-tree_id=308&-redoLog=false&-geo_id=16000US3651000&-format=&-_lang=en
Nov. 16, 2010, 11:33 am
Bob Scott from Brooklyn says:
Only an imperial mayor who doesn't understand the realities of everyday life for the average Joe and Jane could insist pushing such a stupid plan.
Nov. 16, 2010, 11:39 am
Howard from Kensington says:
Wow, sidewalk eating and no parking. I guess the 5th Avenue merchants will be losing my business. Thanks DOT and our imperial mayor.
Nov. 16, 2010, 11:55 am
Ace from New Utrecht says:
I agree, thank you DOT and thank you Mayor Bloomberg. The fewer automobiles the better. The best thing about living in New York City? Not depending on a car!
Nov. 16, 2010, 1:24 pm
morralkan from Crown Hts says:
I'm with you, Al. I've never much enjoyed eating outdoors with all the congestion, smoke, fumes, noise ... and don't forget people passing by and coughing. What a wonderful accompaniment to my meal! I much prefer to eat indoors or in a protected garden, off the street.

And you're right, B. Scott, how fortunate we are to be *blessed* with Emperor Bloomberg and his dipstick Sadik-Khan.
Nov. 16, 2010, 1:36 pm
Jane Jacobs from Brooklyn Heights says:
I think there will always be people who lament that Robert Moses didn't finish the job and destroy every neighborhood. They will also complain when the suburbanizing aspects of the city left over from the 50s get challenged. It's hard to believe, but there are New Yorkers who hate cities and feel that they should be able to drive and park free at all time.
Nov. 16, 2010, 2:04 pm
Joe from Crown Heights says:
What is this nonsensical rhetoric about an "imperialist mayor?" According to the article, it is an opportunity for small businesses to apply to the city to be part of a community-endorsed neighborhood-beautifying pilot program that can help their sales. The local business builds and installs it themselves. What it gods name is "imperialist" about that? Because car-owners can't store their private vehicles in that square footage anymore? I think you have it backwards.
Nov. 16, 2010, 2:10 pm
Jonathan from Boerum Hill says:
Thank you Joe from Crown Heights. Agreed with you fully.
I agree with other posters about eating outside and am really not into it myself, but goodness, the entitlement that many car owners seem to have about their personal vehicles.
Nov. 16, 2010, 5:10 pm
George from Cobble Hill says:
@ Lex

I think Jooltman was wondering how many people drive, walk, bike, public transit everyday...not necessarily just commuting. That's the more relevant question anyway.

And in response, I'd say most everyone who lives in the city, walks around the city during the day. And those who commute by car, bike or public transportation, also walk.

Makes sense to give pedestrians more spaces, since we're all peds.

If you drive to work are you going to take your car to lunch
Nov. 16, 2010, 7:36 pm
Or from Yellow Hook says:
The Romans built roads and trade prospered.

Mayor for Life Mike saw the roads and put a table and umbrella in the middle and brought trade to a halt, and pronounced it good.

Why wait for the summer? Start now - see how good it is to sit in 30 degree weather and tell each other how great it is.

Only Mayor Mike could turn Broadway into Narrow Way and think it was a good thing.
Nov. 16, 2010, 9:20 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Why exactly is it the streets that need to be used for cafe seating when there are sidewalks for this? There is a reason they are called sidewalk cafes. In the long run, this will be a bad idea. When it's not summer let alone spring, those cafes will hardly be used, making them a waste of space just like the bike lanes. As usual, Bloomberg likes to use taxpayer dollars on his pet projects and helping his rich buddies more than helping where it's really needed, which is helping the public sector. Now of all of sudden, it probably makes some wish that they did vote for Thompson instead, becaue eight really was enough for Bloomberg.
Nov. 18, 2010, 4:56 pm

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