A rat sits on the frame of an outdoor dining shack for an Upper West Side restaurant in March 2022. Photo by Adam Schrader/UPI
July 31 (UPI) — A group of New York residents have filed a lawsuit seeking an end to the outdoor dining shacks built in pandemic they say has led to a boom in trash and rats.
The eight-page lawsuit, obtained by UPI, was filed Friday against New York State and New York City in the state’s Supreme Court.
The residents said the Temporary Outdoor Restaurant program implemented in June 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to “increased and excessive noise, traffic congestion, garbage and uncontrolled rodent populations and the blocking of sidewalks and roadways.”
The lawsuit also reads that the program “also continues to appropriate substantial share of public sidewalks and streets for private use and profit.”
“We were okay with restaurants using the outside for dining when COVID came. It was fine to give them the outside for dining then. And it was okay not to charge them anything for the space then,” Robert Camacho, chair of Brooklyn Community Board 4, wrote in an affidavit filed with the lawsuit.
“But Corona is over now. The pandemic is over. The only Corona we’ve got now is the one you buy in from the refrigerator case in the store.”
The lawsuit comes after the New York City Council in February passed legislation to form a permanent program to keep outdoor dining, which had been created as a temporary solution to help restaurants struggling because of lockdown restrictions.
Since those lockdown restrictions have long since been lifted, the New Yorkers said that the city is “abusing its authority” to continue allowing the dining shacks — many of which have fallen into various states of disrepair.
“Now some restaurant owners are using the sheds for storage, not for outdoor dining,” Camacho wrote in his affidavit.
“Some are filled with garbage. Some have kids in there getting high. There’s water and sludge and garbage accumulated between them and it smells like urine and human feces.”
The lawsuit also alleges that the outdoor dining shacks have caused problems for pedestrians trying to navigate the sidewalks as well as cars looking for parking.
Douglas Armer, one of the dozens of people from Manhattan and Brooklyn who are party in the lawsuit, wrote in his affidavit that the restaurant sheds “harbor vermin, collect food waste and impede garbage collection.”
“The result is a persistent unsanitary condition including garbage and broken glass strewn across the street, rodent infestation and standing water in the gutters,” Armer wrote in his statement.
Brooklyn resident Angela Bilotti echoed the statements of her fellow petitioners in her affidavit with the lawsuit, adding that the sheds pose challenges for city garbage trucks and street sweepers who are “unable to do their job.”
“Pre-pandemic, I enjoyed my neighborhood’s charm, clean and quaint tree-lined streets, parks, and peacefully working in my garden,” Bilotti said in her affidavit.
“The sheds filling the streets have become nesting grounds for rats. Litter lines the streets as rats tear open the piles of trash left beside the sheds. Stormwater collects at the shed walls becoming mosquito breeding grounds, and the stench is horrendous.”