"There is not one easy solution right now to the challenges faced by restaurants here,” says Rockwell. “But it’s clear we need to rethink how we utilize outdoor public spaces. The intersection of streets and sidewalks—and even the center lanes of avenues, in some cases—can provide much-needed capacity for restaurants.“

Rockwell is also adapting future projects to maximize outdoor space. For the Italian hotspot Gabriel’s Bar & Restaurant, which is moving to the former Bobby Vans space on Central Park South, the designer is making the restaurant’s façade accessible to the street with access for takeout while creating a sidewalk café that will spill out to the street facing the park.

One neighborhood that stands to benefit strongly from the DOT’s proposed legislation is Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. About 25% of the district's storefronts are restaurants or cafes, not including rooftops and Chelsea Market vendors. The district has 62 food and beverage establishments in total.

On May 13, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced 12 additional miles of street closures around New York, including three streets in the Meatpacking District that could conceivably be used to expand outdoor dining: both 13th Street and Little West 12th Street between 9th Avenue and Washington Street and 17th Street between 8th Avenue and 10th Avenue. 

“The longheld objection to sidewalk cafes is the conflict it creates by taking away public space. But if you take away that conflict area, then restaurants can set up tables further apart, and that will work well for us here,” says Jeffrey LeFrancois, executive director of the Meatpacking District Management Association.

This article was provided by Bloomberg News.

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