Press Releases

Press Release #10-036

Seth Solomonow/Scott Gastel (212) 839-4850

NYC DOT Announces City's First "Pop-up Café," Bringing Innovative Public Space to Lower Manhattan

50-seat temporary space in FiDi enhances street front restaurants

New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz, today cut the ribbon on the city's first "pop-up café"—an innovative, temporary new curbside seating platform that provides workers, residents and visitors on Pearl Street in Lower Manhattan with a needed public space to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee, a quick sandwich, or just to take in the area's busy streetscape. The 84-foot-long, 6-foot-wide wooden platform, landscaped with planters, wire railing and furnished with 14 café tables and 50 chairs, was requested by two local restaurants for public use in this busy lunchtime and after-work district, where quality seating is in high demand during warmer months. While the platform was installed by the adjacent restaurants, which will maintain and remove it later this year at their own expense, any member of the public may enjoy the seating. The program's effectiveness will be evaluated to help determine if similar temporary spaces should be created elsewhere in the city. The Commissioners were joined by CB 1 Financial District Chairman Ro Sheffe and Downtown Alliance Senior Vice President for Planning and Economic Development Nicole LaRusso in front of Fika café and Bombay's restaurant, between Coenties Slip and Broad Street.

"The city's first pop-up café is a great, cost-effective way to help businesses while provide much-needed seating along our crowded sidewalks," said Commissioner Sadik-Khan. "Innovative interventions like this help make our streets into destinations and improve the quality of life for the thousands of people who live, work and play in Lower Manhattan."

"Eating outdoors in New York City has always been a favorite summer pastime and with a 20 percent increase in the last few years, there are now nearly 1,000 sidewalk cafes from which to choose," said Jonathan Mintz, Commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs, the agency which licenses and regulates outdoor cafés. "The City's first Pop-Up Café is an exciting way to continue to work with restaurant owners to help them expand their businesses and at the same time enhance the quality of life for communities that will benefit from the increased vitality and economic activity that outdoor dining brings."

While similar pop-up cafés can be found in many European cities and also in San Francisco, the pop-up café is New York's first. The space, situated in front of coffeeshop Fika and Bombay's restaurant, is open to the general public during both restaurants' regular business hours and is used most during lunchtime. The establishments have already reported huge increases in business in the first week since the space has been unofficially open.

Both restaurants had approached the Downtown Alliance and DOT earlier this year about ways they could possibly expand onto the sidewalk, which was too narrow for a café according to Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) rules. DOT and DCA discussed this innovative solution and DOT proposed the pop-up café platform concept to be installed in the roadbed in the businesses' loading zones.

The number of restaurants with a sidewalk café is at an all-time high. DCA currently licenses more than 1,000 legally operating sidewalk cafés in New York City—a more than 50 percent increase in the past five years alone. DCA has streamlined the application process to secure a sidewalk café license and works closely with the restaurant industry and neighborhood organizations to ensure those sidewalk cafés operate legally.

DOT also facilitated the businesses' contact with architect Riyad Ghannam of RG Architecture, who designed similar outdoor curbside space in San Francisco and provided his services for this project pro bono. Materials for the project were provided at cost by Bison Innovative Products, who also participated in the construction pro bono. The café's 12 Corten steel planters are filled with English lavender, miniature boxwood, and turf lily. The businesses will remove and store the materials during cold weather months, when the four parking spots used for the café construction will be restored.

"Community Board 1 is pleased that the City's first 'pop-up café' will be located in Lower Manhattan," said Community Board 1 Chair Julie Menin. "This is an innovative way to create space for outdoor dining, an appealing amenity for Downtown's rapidly increasing number of residents and for people who work and visit here. This program also has the potential to provide a needed boost to local restaurants at a time when they face significant challenges due to the state of the economy and the extraordinary amount of construction that is underway throughout our district."

"As we know from the success of Stone Street, the addition of outdoor seating creates an exciting new destination for Downtown's 300,000 workers, 55,000 residents and six million annual visitors," said Elizabeth H. Berger, President of the Alliance for Downtown New York. "The Department of Transportation's new pop-up café platform is an especially creative way to add seating along a street with narrow sidewalks. We hope everyone will come enjoy this great new addition to the neighborhood."

"Each and every customer sitting outside is thrilled about this," said Lars Akerlund, co-owner of Fika. "This brings more revenue to the businesses and opens up public place for people to enjoy."

"This outside café has been very beneficial to business owners and the general public," said Prashant Bhatt, owner of Bombay's. "Business will hopefully improve due to more seating and the public will have fresh air to breathe while eating away from their enclosed office spaces. NYC has made the right decision and the results shall follow soon. I sincerely appreciate the effort and support of DOT in this whole process."