Press Releases

For Immediate Release
October 5, 2021

Melissa Grace, Joe Marvilli – (212) 720-3471

DCP and DOT Announce Citywide Design Engagement Process for Permanent Open Restaurants Program

New task force will develop detailed design rules and parameters for roadway seating as next step in making Open Restaurants permanent

NEW YORK – Department of City Planning (DCP) Director Anita Laremont and Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Henry Gutman today announced an upcoming citywide public engagement process for design rules on permanent outdoor dining setups located on city streets.

“Getting design right is among the most important elements of our coming Open Restaurants program – for our health and safety, and for our enjoyment of New York City’s public realm. To get it right, we need input from the public – you. So please, get involved and let’s make the Open Restaurants program even better,” DCP Director Anita Laremont said.

“Open Restaurants not only helped save New York’s world-renowned restaurant industry, it also showed how we can dynamically reimagine our streetscape,” said DOT Commissioner Hank Gutman. “Developing design guidelines will ensure that this emergency program can be transformed into a permanent part of our city, anchoring restaurants in our communities so that this program continues to flourish.”

“The Open Restaurants Program was a lifeline for many small businesses who were struggling to keep their doors open. The success of this program should encourage us to continue exploring and expanding on initiatives that will help New Yorkers reclaim their streets,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Chairman of the Transportation Committee. “Through this public engagement process, I hope that we can continue discussing how we can improve the Open Restaurants Program. We should ensure that we’re doing the necessary outreach to the small businesses located in the outer boroughs. I look forward to continuing to work alongside the Department of City Planning Director Anita Laremont, DOT Commissioner Henry Gutman, Mayor de Blasio, my colleagues at the council, and small businesses to ensure we’re engaging with small businesses in Northern Manhattan.”

"The Open Restaurants program gave New York diners a new way to use public space, socialize, and support their local small businesses. I’m proud to have been an early proponent of outdoor dining, but as the program transitions into a permanent part of New York City, it’s imperative that the city is engaging communities and relevant stakeholders. I’m excited for the future of this program, and thank DCP and DOT for their work on this,” said Council Member Keith Powers.

"I am proud to have sponsored legislation authorizing the Open Streets Program which extended a lifeline to restaurants at a time when they needed it the most, during the COVID pandemic, while also reimagining public space in a way that better serves the public. While the program has already been a huge success, we can now make it even better by fine tuning the design requirements. I look forward to this public engagement process and have no doubt that it will make the outdoor dining program more equitable and beneficial for all New Yorkers,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso.

In 2020, following directives of the Mayor and Council legislation, the City began work on a permanent successor to the Open Restaurants program currently enacted under emergency executive order. The first phase of implementation, a zoning text amendment, is currently in public review, having started the process on June 21, 2021. The permanent Open Restaurants zoning text amendment aims to remove geographic restrictions on where sidewalk cafes can be located within New York City, which stands in the way of thousands of Open Restaurants continuing to have sidewalk cafes post-emergency. Other future phases of implementation will require legislative changes, such as transferring authority for sidewalk cafes from the Department of Consumer and Workforce Protection (DCWP), which previously administered the program, as well as the establishment of siting rules, a fee structure and an application review process for the entirely new roadway program.

While the sidewalk cafe program benefits from long-established siting criteria – such as “clear path” requirements that ensure tables and chairs are appropriate distances from fire hydrants and neighboring businesses – the introduction of roadway dining has raised novel questions about how to best integrate these new setups into the complex environment of NYC streets. This design engagement process with New Yorkers will focus on clear design rules for dining on city streets. The robust, six-month outreach will culminate with the release of design guidelines next Spring.

Co-led by DCP and DOT, these in-person and remote roundtables will take place throughout New York City this fall and winter. Specifics on these public outreach sessions will be listed in the near future on the DOT webpage dedicated to Open Restaurants as well as on NYC Engage. These discussions will offer opportunities for New Yorkers to share their thoughts on how Open Restaurant structures should be designed to ensure that the final program rules balance creativity, feasibility and cost as they seek to enhance comfort and safety for all New Yorkers.

On a parallel track, a stakeholder outreach process will be facilitated through a partnership with the Regional Plan Association, Design Trust for Public Space and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. These design and advocacy groups will hold a series of independent roundtables to ensure a robust cross section of challenges, needs and ideas are considered in the design, operations and policy goals associated with the coming Open Restaurants program.

“New York City’s Open Restaurants program has demonstrated that streets can be reimagined in a way that benefits local businesses and residents,” said Kate Slevin, Executive Vice President, Regional Plan Association. “Regional Plan Association is thrilled to collaborate with the Department of City Planning and the Department of Transportation to refine and improve the program as it transitions from a temporary emergency measure to a permanent part of city life.”

“Open Restaurants has shown that our public realm can serve New York residents and small businesses in new and vital ways. Doing so effectively in the long-term will require an equal amount of open conversation and engagement. That why the Design Trust for Public Space, alongside Tri-State Transportation Campaign and Regional Plan Association, is proud to be engaging with neighborhoods and restaurants on the future of this important program,” said Matthew Clarke, Executive Director of the Design Trust for Public Space.

“Formalizing the Open Restaurants program into a permanent and equitable fixture of our city is an opportunity to reconfigure our streetscapes to be more walkable, livable, and engaging for New Yorkers. A successful program depends on collaboration and feedback amongst communities, small businesses, and city agencies. The Tri-State Transportation Campaign, alongside our partners Design Trust for Public Space and Regional Plan Association, is pleased to engage neighborhoods and restaurants alike, to form safer, inclusive, and equitable streets for outdoor dining and our city,” said Renae Reynolds, Executive Director of Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

“Open Restaurants helped save thousands of small businesses from shuttering, it’s credited with saving 100,000 industry jobs, and providing New Yorkers the opportunity to safely socialize while dining alfresco over a great meal during the Covid-19 crisis. Now as the city transitions from the temporary, emergency outdoor dining program to permanent roadway seating, we commend and look forward to working with the Department of City Planning, Department of Transportation, and community stakeholders in a thoughtful public engagement process to develop the permanent Open Restaurants program that’s standardized, sustainable and transformative for our city’s streetscape, neighborhoods, economy and dining culture,” said Andrew Rigie, Executive Director of the NYC Hospitality Alliance.

The design and public engagement processes, organized and led by DCP and DOT, will also be will be assisted by an interagency Open Restaurants design taskforce consisting of representatives from relevant agencies involved in managing the restaurant industry or in street planning:

  • Dept of Buildings
  • Dept of Consumer and Worker Protection
  • Dept of Environmental Protection
  • Dept of Health and Mental Hygiene
  • Dept of Sanitation
  • Economic Development Corporation
  • Fire Department of New York
  • Landmarks Preservation Commission
  • Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment
  • Mayor’s Office of People with Disabilities
  • Public Design Commission
  • Small Business Services

As we continue to gather feedback from across the city, DOT's new roadway design website will share key areas of design consultation, which includes issues like:

  • Enhancing safe interactions between diners, drivers, cyclists and pedestrians
  • ADA compliance and best practices for platforms and ramps
  • The types of shade structures that can be permitted while still meeting the goals of openness and removability

Besides engagement events, members of the public can now visit the website to provide ideas and feedback on how these sidewalk and street structures for outdoor dining can best enhance safety, mobility and public access.

The completion of the design engagement process will be marked with the release of design guidelines in Spring 2022, which will detail all the intended design parameters, vetted by the interagency group.

After that, a robust community and borough level engagement and outreach program will be set up for sharing the design concepts in advance of the City’s rulemaking process known as the City Administrative Procedure Act, or CAPA. It is through CAPA that the City will finalize and adopt formal rules relating to the permanent Open Restaurants program, including rules for outdoor dining structures in the roadway.

Following adoption of the rules through CAPA, DOT will publish a final visual “manual” of design guidance, including an easy-to-use digital application that will provide a roadmap to restaurants on their outdoor dining structures. This resource will be made available ahead of the official launch of applications for the permanent Open Restaurants program, expected in late 2022.

Department of City Planning
The Department of City Planning (DCP) plans for the strategic growth and development of the City through ground-up planning with communities, the development of land use policies and zoning regulations applicable citywide, and its contribution to the preparation of the City’s 10-year Capital Strategy. DCP promotes housing production and affordability, fosters economic development and coordinated investments in infrastructure and services, and supports resilient, sustainable communities across the five boroughs for a more equitable New York City.

In addition, DCP supports the City Planning Commission in its annual review of approximately 450 land use applications for a variety of discretionary approvals. The Department also assists both government agencies and the public by advising on strategic and capital planning and providing policy analysis, technical assistance and data relating to housing, transportation, community facilities, demography, zoning, urban design, waterfront areas and public open space.