By Brian J. Pape
In and Out, by Caroline Benveniste (WestView News, July 2020), reported the flurry of re-openings of restaurants with outdoor seating that were able to take advantage of the city’s “open restaurant plan” for more than 8,600 businesses. Gene’s “Est. 1919” Restaurant at 73 West 11th Street has been closed for months, not able to benefit from the plan, because restaurants aren’t allowed to block CitiBike docks, fire hydrants, bike lanes, or bus lanes, even though a French restaurant in Midtown is serving customers in the middle of a CitiBike station, and one on MacDougal Street put a seat box right in the bike lane!
Red tape can strangle the best of intentions. David Ramirez, whose father bought Gene’s in 1979, said removing or relocating just eight bicycle docks would help save the three families that the established restaurant supports.
Our friend and neighbor Sarah Jessica Parker posted her support of Ramirez and Gene’s on her social media account, asking that the Citi Bike station at Gene’s, one of her favorite restaurants, be relocated so they could open with seating at the curbside space. Some criticized her, many supported her.
Citi Bike posted a response: “When cars come off the streets, the possibilities for restaurants, bikes and pedestrians to co-exist— and thrive—are endless.”
Both Ramirez and ABC7NY appealed to the mayor’s office, city council, DOT, and Lyft/CitiBike that the bike docks in front of Gene’s be moved but got nowhere.
Ms. Parker is absolutely right to ask for this; CitiBike can easily move the docks, as they have done many times for street repair and construction sites. In fact, this writer checked it out: at least 30 docks could be moved up to the end of the 59 docks in front of the New School building since there are no fire hydrants or obstacles there. That would benefit Gene’s and the Kubeh Restaurant next door.
Councilman Corey Johnson vowed to keep working with the DOT to find a workable solution, and within a few days the mayor announced a policy to free up space like this for restaurants.
Let’s alert City Hall to these needs any way we can; call 311 with your requests. Thank you.
Brian J. Pape is a LEED-AP “green” architect consulting in private practice, serves on the Manhattan District 2 Community Board, is co-chair of the American Institute of Architects NY Design for Aging Committee, and is a journalist who writes about architecture.