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Lawsuit seeks to end New York City's outdoor dining program over excessive noise, garbage and rats

Group suing to end NYC's outdoor dining program
Group suing to end NYC's outdoor dining program 02:36

NEW YORK -- There are more complaints about New York City's outdoor dining program and now some are going to court to try to get rid of it. 

The program has been a lifeline for many restaurants since it was implemented early in the pandemic. Those behind the lawsuit said they supported it then, but feel it's gotten out of control since, CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis reported Monday. 

"This area was crazy before outdoor dining and outdoor dining just made it that much crazier," said Patrick Walsh.

Walsh has been living on the Lower East Side for 22 years. He said the past two years have been horrific since the outdoor dining structures emerged.

"Every, single morning there would be junkies, rats, garbage," Walsh said. 

Walsh said a dining structure in his neighborhood was being used as a coat check. 

"These things aren't used for dining anymore, at least half of them that I see," he said. 

Walsh is among 35 New Yorkers behind a lawsuit calling to end the Open Restaurants program. The lawsuit cites excessive noise, traffic congestion, garbage and uncontrolled rodent populations since implementation in June 2020. 

Walsh, a school teacher who wakes up at 5:30 a.m. to go to work, said he doesn't get to sleep until 4 a.m. sometimes.

"It is very very difficult I have a daughter upstairs who's studying to get into colleges and this is not a way to live, this is not civilized life," he said.

"Every other emergency ordinance has been ceased. Not this one. Why?" Walsh added. 

In February, the City Council passed legislation for a permanent outdoor dining program, which was delayed by another lawsuit.

Attorney Michael Sussman is involved in both suits. 

"It was never implemented with any environmental reviews. The environmental consequences have been disastrous in many neighborhoods in New York City, and it has to end because there's no legal basis for it," Sussman said. 

Fanis Tsiamtsiouris, who owns Metro Diner on the Upper West Side, said outdoor dining has been a lifeline and losing it would be detrimental. 

"Without outdoor dining, we would not be in business today," Tsiamtsiouris said. "I would say we'd probably lose 30 percent of our business." 

"I think there's a way to modify, to standardize what the structure should look like, and they have to be used. They can't be used for storage, can't be used for all other things. But I'm in support of the outdoor dining," Mayor Eric Adams said. 

"It's not about just getting rid of the system. It's about making is standardized. Make it more sustainable, make it so we can have it for the long term," said NYC Hospitality Alliance Executive Director Andrew Rigie. 

The lawsuit's organizers said they have nothing against sidewalk cafes and felt that program worked well when it was regulated by the Department of Consumer Affairs.

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