Last year the Department of Transportation launched a pilot program that allowed some Financial District restaurateurs to turn a few parking spots into temporary outdoor café seating, which everyone seemed to love, including David Byrne. But what's good for FiDi is not necessarily good for the rest of downtown, it seems. The DOT aims to expand the program this summer, and six applicants went before Community Board 2 (which covers Soho, Greenwich Village, West Village and more) last night to get approvals for the parking-stealing pop-ups. This innocent little proposal to boost local business has been swept up in a wave of anti-DOT sentiment, and all but one were rejected, the Post reports. Why? Well that's where things get really interesting.
Those who spoke in favor of the pop-up cafés were "drowned out by boos and hisses," and one critic, who circulated a petition calling for the resignation of bike-lane-friendly DOT boss Janette Sadik-Khan, said this is another example of the middle class getting squeezed out. By seasonal restaurant seating! We feel your pain, brother, and so does Sean Sweeney, the Soho activist who is not afraid to take a punch for his principles.
On NearSay, Sweeney has written a piece celebrating the "striking rejection" of this proposal "to encourage New Yorkers to eat in the gutter." Sweeney recaps the hearing like it was Gettysburg, only this battle had the parents of celebrities!
At the community board meeting, famed restaurant critic, Mimi Sheraton, decried the idea as nonsensical and detrimental to the character of the Village, further suggesting that her neighbors boycott any business that sets up one of these opertions. Gary Tomei, father of actress Melissa Tomei and Greenwich Village activist, also addressed how foolish this concept is. For every one person who spoke in favor of the proposal, twenty demanded its removal.But what's Sweeney's beef? As always, we can blame Canada:Astonishingly, DOT representatives pointed out that these gutter cafés are popular in - get this - Halifax, Nova Scotia. Can you believe that this agency wants the Greatest City in the World to resemble the provincial capital of a tiny peninsula somewhere in the north Atlantic Ocean? What are these guys tripping on, diesel fumes?The next time a local business aims to better its chance of survival in a tough economy by adding a little life to the street, it will surely know better. Power to the people!
· Board nixes 5 of 6 'pop-up' cafes [NYP]
· DOT's POP-UPs Pooped Out [NearSay]