Administration Invites New Yorkers to Help Identify Deserted Sheds for Removal

Sheds That Are Abandoned Have Been Dark Spot on Otherwise Successful Program City Continues to Support, Removal Marks Critical Step Towards Permanent Program

New York City Mayor Eric Adams today announced a new, multiagency enforcement initiative focused on spotlighting open and active outdoor dining sheds in the city’s Open Restaurants program and removing abandoned sheds that were formerly part of restaurants that have now shut down. Mayor Adams marked the new initiative after dining outdoors at a restaurant in Manhattan last night.

As part of this initiative, Mayor Adams today announced the completion of an initial blitz in which the city removed 24 identified sheds outside now closed restaurants in the matter of a few days. As none of the sheds are currently attached to functioning restaurants, these abandoned sheds have, in many cases, fallen into disrepair and created conditions that facilitate illicit and illegal behavior — affecting quality of life in neighborhoods across the city. These deserted sheds — representing a small minority of the nearly 13,000 Open Restaurants participants — have distracted from an otherwise popular, successful program, and their removal represents an important step towards a permanent program that all New Yorkers can be proud of, with clear design guidelines and stronger enforcement.

“Outdoor dining has transformed New York City and saved 100,000 jobs during the pandemic, but we cannot allow abandoned dining sheds to litter our streets,” said Mayor Adams. “These deserted dining sheds have become eyesores for neighbors and havens for rats, and we are going to tear them down. And, with this initiative, we are also taking the essential step towards a permanent Open Restaurants program that all New Yorkers can be proud of every day. I want to say it loud and clear: Outdoor dining is here to stay.”

“New Yorkers made the Open Restaurants program a huge success; it’s now part of the fabric of our city,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations Meera Joshi. “New Yorkers expect and deserve safe, clean, and sensible structures, and it’s clear that a small universe of these sites is not living up to these standards. While the overwhelming majority of Open Restaurants have helped to reimagine our streetscape in a positive way, the Adams administration is addressing abandoned sheds that have become eyesores and source of blight, as well as those that pose health and safety risks. The Open Restaurants program is working for patrons, small business owners, and essential employees who make these establishments run, and this administration will be vigilant in ensuring every site is worthy of the great New York City neighborhood in which it sits.” 

“The Open Restaurants program was a lifeline for the city’s restaurant industry during the pandemic — it kept restaurants afloat during the hardest of times, enlivened commercial corridors, and set a new example of how we can think about our public street space and sidewalks,” said Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development Maria Torres-Springer. “This administration is committed to a permanent version of this program that addresses health and safety concerns while retaining the creativity and character that we have seen with the temporary program, including ensuring we are properly enforcing unsafe and abandoned structures.”

The new enforcement initiative is being spearheaded by Deputy Mayor Meera Joshi with a task force led by the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) and the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY). The New York City Parks Department (NYC Parks) assisted with the initial blitz, and the New York City Police Department (NYPD) has assisted with specific shed removals where necessary for public safety.

Having removed the initial 24 abandoned sheds, the task force has begun identifying and removing additional abandoned sheds, investigating another 37 sheds identified as egregious violators of Open Restaurants program guidelines, and reviewing complaints and summons data to identify and remove other abandoned sheds throughout the five boroughs. Sheds reported to be abandoned will be verified as abandoned two separate times before receiving a termination letter, followed by removal and disposal of the shed.

The task force will also review sheds that, while potentially active, are particularly egregious violators of Open Restaurants program guidelines. In these cases, sheds will be inspected three separate times before action is taken. After each of the first two failed inspections, DOT will issue notices instructing the restaurant owner to correct the outstanding issues; after the third visit, DOT will issue a termination letter and allow 48 hours before issuing a removal notice. DOT will then remove the structure and store it for 90 days — if the owner does not reclaim it in that period, DOT will dispose of the structure.

The administration is encouraging any New Yorker who identifies a shed that appears abandoned to call 311, say “Open Restaurants” or “outdoor dining,” and share the location so the task force can review it. New Yorkers can also submit photos to 311 via text, email, or the 311 website to report a shed out of compliance.

The Open Restaurants program has been a lifeline for restaurants and restaurant workers through the pandemic, saving an estimated 100,000 jobs and reimagining the city’s roadway and curb space. The program will continue to be a critical piece of the recovery of the multibillion-dollar hospitality, nightlife, and tourism industry; neighborhood’s economies across the city; and the citywide economy.

“Open Restaurants has enabled us to reimagine the use of public space, so we will not let a few bad actors destroy the program for thousands of restaurants that have been great partners and neighbors,” said DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez. “We will follow Mayor Adams’ leadership in the coming months as we further grow Open Restaurants and Open Streets into effective and permanent programs.”

“New York has always been known for its restaurants, and, under the Adams administration, we’re going to be known for something else: clean streets,” said DSNY Commissioner Jessica Tisch. “The two have to go hand in hand; DSNY is proud of our part in making sure that Open Restaurants don’t end up open to rats, too.”

“Open Restaurants has transformed our city’s public realm — and, with this new initiative, Mayor Adams is making sure that outdoor dining continues to work for business owners and New Yorkers,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue. “NYC Parks is proud that our carpenters and maintenance staff assisted in this initial blitz in support of the program’s continued success.”

“Open Restaurants has rejuvenated our streets and given a lifeline for so many establishments over the past two years,” said New York City Department of City Planning Director and New York City Planning Commission Chair Dan Garodnick. “While we build out a permanent program, we also need to make sure our streets and sidewalks remain safe. And that’s what this enforcement action is all about.”

“The outdoor dining sheds were a lifeline for so many businesses in our city during the pandemic and are positive examples of the creative ways we reimagined our usage of public space,” said New York City Councilmember Jennifer Gutiérrez. “However, when these sheds are left abandoned, they become dumping grounds for trash, block catch basins, and lower the quality of life for neighbors and surrounding businesses. The process of removing these unused sheds is a solid common-sense solution to mitigate this problem, while lifting up the businesses that are following the guidelines and adding value to their communities.”

“Abandoned outdoor sheds are a blight in our communities that affect our quality of life,” said New York City Councilmember Julie Menin, chair, Committee on Small Business. “These violators of the Open Restaurants program are bad actors that hurt responsible small businesses and our neighborhoods. With the city taking action to remove abandoned sheds, it is keeping our streets safe, clean, and maintained. I appreciate Mayor Eric Adams’ initiative that protects small businesses and our vibrant commercial corridors.”

“Over the past two years, the outdoor dining program has been a lifeline for restaurants, but abandoned sheds are hurting communities and deteriorating quality of life for many New Yorkers,” said New York City Councilmember Keith Powers. “I’m glad to see the mayor taking action against these unused structures so we can ultimately create a permanent program that works for everyone.”

“Many businesses have reverted to pre-pandemic dining, while others are eager to continue the outdoor experience and have aligned with the rules and regulations of the city,” said New York City Councilmember Marjorie Velázquez. “Unfortunately, these abandoned, dilapidated structures contribute to health and public safety concerns. When there is no upkeep or accountability for these outdoor dining structures, we see sanitation concerns, vermin, and an increase in unhoused individuals making a shelter out of these structures. For the city to thrive and rebuild effectively, we must work towards lawful and equitable solutions for economic upward mobility. I commend Mayor Adams for holding bad actors and businesses accountable for their egregious negligence.”

“Outdoor dining was proven to be one of the most effective business support strategies New York City implemented during COVID,” said Randy Peers, president and CEO, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. “As we continue to move forward with business recovery, however, it’s essential we recalibrate our strategies and focus on quality-of-life issues. Removing abandoned and unkept outdoor dining sheds is the right approach for both the community and those businesses that continue to use outdoor dining responsibly and successfully.”

“It’s great news that Mayor Adams announced the city will remove abandoned outdoor dining structures that shuttered during the pandemic and will focus on revitalizing dilapidated ones as we transition out of the temporary emergency program that saved countless small businesses and jobs,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director, New York City Hospitality Alliance. “We look forward to working with the city to develop a permanent outdoor dining system that will be beautiful and sustainable for the future.”

“We’re delighted with the way the Adams administration is responding to the aesthetic and street crime complaints of those of us in the midtown business improvement districts,” said Dan Biederman, president, 34th Street Partnership. “This attention to our problems with derelict street sheds is just another example. Thank you, Mr. Mayor.”