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New York City Expands Open Streets Program To Give Restaurants More Room For Outdoor Dining

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- For July 4th, New York City is opening up streets to add options for outdoor dining and give restaurants a much-needed boost.

Since you can't eat inside restaurants yet, the city is trying to give restaurants more space outside.

The closed streets give pedestrians more room to walk, and restaurants can put tables out both on the sidewalk and in the street.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has expanded the Open Street concept at 22 locations across five boroughs to give New Yorkers space to eat outside safely.

These corridors will be car-free each weekend. The expansion started Friday night.

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In Little Italy, part of Mulberry Street is closed to cars but open for business.

Restaurants have expanded their footprint into the street, a nice change of pace for customers still wary about the coronavirus.

"I'm excited that other people seem to be scared of it too 'cause there's not a wait to sit outside, so that's kind of nice," Lauryl Sandman, of Queens, said.

The shortage of customers is not so nice for Alex Tisi, who owns Il Piccolo Bufalo. His business is down about 85% compared to last year.

"It's been an uphill battle. The area itself is extremely tourist-dependent. There are no tourists, basically, in the city," Tisi told CBS2's Nick Caloway.

Still, after being closed for three months, he says the expanded outdoor dining is a godsend.

Some customers are enjoying fewer tourists and more space outside.

"It's all pretty much locals now, so we get to enjoy it, rather than being treated like a tourist now. We are locals, so we enjoy it," Noel Alvarez, of Staten Island, said.

Restaurants in Little Italy have been doing outdoor dining in the street for years. The difference this year is the crowds, or lack thereof.

Normally on a warm Saturday night in July, Mulberry Street would be packed, but Saturday, it was anything but.

Diners were also enjoying less vehicle traffic on a few streets in the Meatpacking District.

"More relaxed. It's just more, it feels safer, it feels more relaxed. It's just a pleasurable experience, definitely," Ildi Kovacx, of the Upper East Side, said.

Roberto Monticello has long been known as the mayor of the Meatpacking District.

"I would love to keep it this way," Monticello said.

He says the city should keep some of the changes in place even after COVID is gone.

"Leave the area just walkable, a place where people can be themselves," he said.

The city does plan to expand the Open Streets concept to more areas. Another 10-20 corridors should be approved and announced in the next two weeks.

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