July 17, 2020 By Allie Griffin
Mayor Bill de Blasio has extended the city’s outdoor dining program through the end of October to help restaurants bounce back from the months-long coronavirus shutdown.
The mayor made the announcement while also noting that he has added a number of streets in Queens — and elsewhere — to the city’s “Open Streets: Restaurants” initiative, in which blocks are closed to traffic on weekends and filled with seating for restaurant patrons.
This initiative, along with curbside seating in parking spaces, was set to expire after Labor Day. De Blasio extended these two programs through Oct. 31, as indoor dining remains indefinitely postponed.
The sidewalk seating program — where restaurants don’t have to go through an extensive permitting process — was already set to expire Oct. 31 and that date remains unchanged.
“Open Restaurants has given New Yorkers more than just a meal away from home – it has given our city a sign that better times are ahead,” de Blasio said. “I’m proud to give small businesses another two months to get back on their feet, and I’m looking forward to enjoying a meal on our expanded Open Street program soon.”
The city revealed 26 new streets that will be added to the Open Streets: Restaurants program, including blocks in Forest Hills and Elmhurst.
The blocks will be closed to traffic and transformed into outdoor dining corridors on Friday nights and weekends, starting tonight, de Blasio said.
In Forest Hills, 70th Road from Austin Street to Queens Boulevard and Austin Street from 72nd Avenue to 72nd Road will close for restaurant seating. In Elmhurst, Woodside Avenue from 76th Street to 78th Street will close.
The blocks will be car-free on Fridays from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 11 p.m. to allow for expanded seating.
Each stretch will be filled with tables and chairs for patrons of eateries along the strip. An emergency lane down the center of the roadways will remain clear to allow emergency vehicles to pass through.
The new additions bring the citywide total to 47 participating streets. A stretch of Bell Boulevard in Bayside is the only other strip in Queens currently part of the Open Streets: Restaurants program.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) has engaged local community groups to participate in the initiative. The Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce organized the two blocks in Forest Hills, while Thai Community USA advocated for the corridor along Woodside Avenue in Elmhurst.
“The restaurants on 70th Road and on Austin Street near 72nd Ave are so excited to expand their seating with the open street closures,” said President of the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce Leslie Brown.
“The street closure can really benefit the restaurants and at the same time bring the community together on these summer evenings,” Brown said. “I encourage everyone to come out, invite friends and don’t forget the other small businesses that you know and love by supporting them!”
A list of streets that are part of the Open Streets: Restaurants program can be found here.