NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A group of New York City residents is suing the city to stop the Open Restaurants program from becoming permanent.
Many restaurant owners say the outdoor dining structures are still essential to staying in business, but a new lawsuit claims the city is not considering the long-term effects on neighborhoods and the environment.
The outdoor dining structure at "Good Enough tho Eat" has nearly doubled the Upper West Side restaurant.
"It really is a lifesaver," restaurant owner Jeremy Wladis told CBS2's Ali Bauman.
The owner says even though the pandemic's indoor dining capacity restrictions are gone, restaurants like his still need the extra seats, so he was thrilled when Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the expanded outdoor dining program was here to stay.
"Our prices are roughly the same thing as they were pre-pandemic. The cost of labor has gone up. The cost of vegetables, meats, plastic ware," Wladis said. "a good restaurant needs about 90% of their pre-COVID sales to break even and pay their bills and that's a hard number to achieve right now."
But this week, four Manhattan residents joined a group of 22, filing a lawsuit against the city to prevent the outdoor structures from becoming permanent.
"It's understandable that it's popular, but if you actually live here, it's a completely different experience," West Village resident Leif Arntze said.
The lawsuit claims the structures are highly destructive, listing problems like noise, vermin and garbage accumulation.
"All these blocks around here that have these sheds haven't been swept for a long time, so every one of these sheds is totally infested with rats underneath as we speak. It's impossible to clean under there," West Village resident Stu Waldman said.
The city says it conducted a thorough environmental review, which found the outdoor dining structures had no adverse impact, but the lawsuit argues against the city's findings and asks for a full environmental study, making the future of these structures uncertain.
"It's one of the few things that's really saving this industry at this stage in the game," Wladis said.
"Why not have a real conversation about what we all want our shared public spaces to look like," SoHo resident Micki McGee said.
A city spokesman says New Yorkers will continue to have opportunities to share their thoughts on how Open Restaurant structures should be designed.
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