The Department of Transportation (DOT) Thursday took a drill and power saw to the 100th derelict outdoor dining shed, much to the delight of locals.
“You are taking it down? Thank you!” one passerby exclaimed as he saw workers descend upon the boarded-up structure on 25 Cleveland Place in Lower Manhattan. “Now let’s get the rest,” another man added.
The mayor’s office has been endeavoring to remove commercial huts that have become a blight on local neighborhoods while keeping structures that meet guidelines intact. The initiative hit a major milestone on Oct. 20, seeing its 100th takedown after the eatery had fallen into disrepair or have failed to be properly maintained — often making such sheds magnets for litterbugs and vermin.
Deputy Mayor of Operations Meera Joshi stressed to amNewYork Metro that these takedowns are not an attack on the outside dining program, but rather an effort to remove shacks that have become troublesome to locals.
“It is those that are an eyesore, those that are abandoned, those that have graffiti on them where there’s trash, and people are using them for things other than dining that get a lot of attention and absolutely put a stain on the program,” Joshi explained to amNewYork Metro. “It’s the bad apples.”
At the moment workers removed the first board, a putrid odor began to waft out. Inside the rotten wood floor was covered with rat droppings, discarded clothing, and used needles.
Undeterred, members of DOT and DSNY began the arduous task of not only removing the decayed shack but also cleaning the area. Through sawdust, rusted nails, and broken timber, the agencies slowly tore away planks, pushed in plastic windows, and cut through wood.
Over the course of an hour, the men and women were able to fully detach the outer shell, leaving them to only tear up the flooring. Pulling up the ground revealed a muddy sludge that sent cockroaches crawling and rats scurrying.
Joshi also emphasized that it is not just pedestrians and local residents who suffer from the unsightly structures, local business owners who have outdoor sheds beside decaying dining areas suffer loss of business.
“They, I think, feel the pain worse of all because it gives a bad reputation to the entire program. And so, they’re very happy when enforcement is done against those that have been really irresponsible,” Joshi said. “It’s a partnership between the enforcement and community feedback.”
With the winter coming, Joshi said that structures that are not upkept will be paid close attention to in order to ensure the safety of New Yorkers.
“Safety is a priority,” Joshi stressed, “We’ll continue the pace of the task force to ensure that anything that is a danger is going to be given immediate attention. As the roads become harder to navigate with winter, especially as you go into snow season, so it’s important that the open restaurants that are not kept up are not on the streets any longer.”
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.