By Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech
The city will take a “huge step” towards recovering from the coronavirus pandemic now that it will enter Phase 2 of reopening on Monday, June 22, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday.
Phase 2 of New York state’s four-phase reopening plan allows for outdoor dining at bars and restaurants and some in-store shopping. Hair salons, barbershops, and offices can reopen if they abide by social distancing rules. The real estate industry, commercial building management, car sales, leasing and renting and retail rental, repair, and cleaning can also return to business under Phase 2 guidelines. The city will distribute 2 million face coverings to businesses opening during Phase 2 and connect owners with a directory of PPE wholesalers.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration expects between 150,000 and 300,000 people will begin returning to the city’s workforce on Monday. Also as part of Phase 2, children’s playgrounds will reopen. “Social distancing ambassadors” will monitor crowding and hand out face coverings at face coverings. Group sports like soccer, basketball and football are still banned.
To help “save” 5,000 struggling restaurants during Phase 2, the de Blasio administration announced that cafes, bars and restaurants will be able to use adjacent curbs, sidewalks, backyards, patios, and some of the city’s open streets as outdoor seating space. Some of the city’s Business Improvement Districts will work with eateries to configure outdoor seating in pedestrian plazas. City Hall hopes that the “Open Restaurants Plan” will also help 45,000 New Yorkers keep their work in the restaurant industry.
The Department of Transportation has yet to decide which open streets restaurants will be able to place outdoor seating, but the option will be available to bars, restaurants, and cafes by July, according to the mayor. Curb-side outdoor seating will be available through Labor Day as part of a pilot program, the mayor said, and sidewalk seating will only be available until October.
If a restaurant or bar wants to use roadway curb space for outdoor seating, it can not exceed the length of the business and must create a physical barrier between diners and travel lanes with planters or other types of barricades. Businesses using sidewalk space for outdoor dining must leave a walkable space between seating and the curb.
Curbs space within 15 feet of a fire hydrant, bus stops and sidewalks “No Standing Anytime” signage can not be used for outdoor dining seating, according to city hall.
The DOT will post an online self-certification application for outdoor seating on Friday, June 19, where applicants will need be required to pledge to not allow customers not seated to gather outside in order to maintain social distance and prevent a spike in coronavirus cases.
Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo threatened to “reverse” the course of reopening after videos and pictures of crowds disregarding social distancing rules and not wearing masks outside of Manhattan bars and restaurants were blasted across social media. During a press conference on Sunday, Governor Cuomo said that the state had received over 25,000 complaints of business violating social distancing rules with the majority of those complaints coming from Manhattan and The Hamptons.
Countries like China and Singapore have seen a spike in coronavirus cases in recent days, possibly because of reopening too early, de Blasio told reporters that New Yorkers would not “make the same mistakes” when entering Phase 2.
“We have lots of inspectors out there to makes sure things are done right,” de Blasio told reporters. ” If we see it, we’ll address it.”