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Citi Bike May Hold Key To East Village Restaurant's Survival

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The owners of an East Village restaurant say the city is refusing to make one simple change that could save their business.

And at the center of the problem is a Citi Bike rack, CBS2's Lisa Rozner reported Thursday.

The restaurant is barely breaking even, as it can only offer one table right now. The sidewalk has an egress and a tree, and because of a fire hydrant the closest table has to be 15 feet away. That brings us to this Citi Bike dock. The restaurant owners say even if part of it is removed, it could get them four additional tables.

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It was quiet Thursday at Plado, really quiet compared to the long waits the 55-seat restaurant was seeing prior to the pandemic.

Husband and wife co-owners German and Kristin Rizzo said the 1-year-old Mediterranean tapas spot is now hanging on by a thread, as it can only serve that one table outside.

"To be able to utilize the outdoor space will give us the revenue that we need to possibly hold us over," Kristin Rizzo said.

"We are completely in the red," German Rizzo added.


They've cut back employees' hours and for more than a month have been asking the city to cut back part of the nearby Citi Bike rack that could give them four more tables, up to 16 more diners.

An online petition requests the bikes be relocated across the street or added to two other docking stations that are each one block away.

The city's response has repeatedly been no.

"I was told there was not enough funding and they didn't have the manpower to come and remove the bike docks for us," Kristin Rizzo said.

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But last month the city somehow found the funding and manpower to move the Citi Bike dock that blocked outdoor dining for 100-year-old Gene's restaurant in the West Village.

"I kind of felt like I was lied to a little bit," Kristin Rizzo said.

Neighbors said the owners give back, including making free masks for health care workers, and they are equally as frustrated.

"Everyone is struggling, but this brings in income, money into the city. Something has to be done," Nancy Medina said.

"I would expect there to be quicker action from the city," property manager Yishai Sinai said.

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Susan Stetzer, the district manager for Community Board 3, agrees that it's unfair. She said she's contacted the Department of Transportation for Plado and another business, but she, too, has been told it will not be done, and she can't change that.

"I will never give up for nothing, but at one point how can I resist?" German Rizzo said.

Council Speaker Corey Johnson said as long as Citi Bike service levels are maintained, the city should be flexible.

"Citi Bike is a vital part of our city's mass transit infrastructure and outdoor dining is a lifeline for our restaurants that is proving how many possibilities open up when street space is used well," Johnson said. "The City should be flexible in helping restaurants take full advantage of outdoor dining while also preserving Citi Bike service levels. This balance should be found by using more and more space previously given over to cars, rather than having restaurants and transit infrastructure compete for limited space."

Added Andrew Rigie of the NYC Hospitality Alliance: "We understand in situations there may be limitations, but we urge the City, including Citi Bike and others, to do everything in their power to accommodate struggling restaurants, whether that means relocating bike stations, letting restaurants set up outdoor dining in adjacent spaces or other accommodations to help these small businesses survive."

A DOT spokesperson said the agency will review the location for any potential adjustments, but did not give CBS2 timeline.

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