West Broadway dining sheds make way for bike path

The Odeon, Serafina, Frenchette and Terra all removed their dining sheds on West Broadway to clear the way for the bike path, and no matter how you feel about the city’s Open Restaurants program, this situation just keeps getting more confusing — both for neighbors and restaurant owners. (Though I have to say, the avenue does look prettier now that you can see the storefronts, especially at night.)

At the Odeon, Lynn Wagenknecht said that riders complained that the shed blocked the bike lane — even though the bike lane was installed after the shed, and at that time, it’s green stripe wound around the west side of the shed.

“DOT did not keep the paint fresh so eventually it looked like there was no bike lane or that the restaurant had simply built over it. Both incorrect,” Lynn said. DOT inspectors would come periodically to issue fines and the restaurant managers would show them each time the remains of the bike path. In the end, the DOT sent notice that the structure would have to be removed by May 1. If the restaurant is to rebuild the shed as permitted, it will have to be outside the bike path, as the sheds are further north in the Village.

“Unfortunately, the edict came with zero consideration to lost revenue, lost jobs for the staff hired to serve the café, the expense of the original buildout, the demolition and future reconstruction of a café on the other side of the relocated bike lane,” Lynn added.

While the City Council introduced a bill a year ago to allow the zoning changes that would permit curbside dining long-term, the legislation around a permanent program is still being knocked around in two committees. And that is making everyone crazy. There is some serious conflict at the root of the indecision: some districts don’t want the sheds at all; some are clamoring for them. Plus the city was sued to end the program by the group CUEUP, which wants all the sheds removed then a cap issued to the number that can be rebuilt. (The Commercial Observer has a good story that outlines all the players and their positions.)

The new bill to make Open Restaurants permanent would streamline the current the sidewalk café licensing provisions, likely keeping cafes seasonal (an issue for restaurants, who would not be able to store their setups over the winter).

Right now the city has its regulations in place that would make the sheds more palatable — if the regs were followed. For instance:

  • there has to be 8 feet of sidewalk clear between any subway grates or any above-grade structures (meters and traffic signs are exempt)
  • barriers have to be 8 feet from a marked or unmarked crosswalk
  • barriers have to be 15 feet from fire hydrants
  • no amplified sound — from TVs or stereos — is permitted

As much as I could care less about preserving parking, this is a private use of public space and should be evaluated that way. There’s the intention that the permanent program would include some sort of rent for restaurants, though how that gets calculated is another issue. Some issues have to be more closely regulated — like permitting air conditioning in sheds in a climate emergency and making sure the sidewalks still feel like public places to walk and not the interior aisle of a restaurant.

And inherently the whole thing is unfair to restaurants anyway. Some have huge curb fronts or corners, and some have none either thanks to the width of their restaurant or the placement of a hydrant.

I plan to walk around with my tape measure — not kidding — to do some of my own inspections, since it is a mystery to me how some sheds get busted and others, that are clearly in violation of all sorts of rules are still operating.

“Restaurants are awaiting DOT who have been put in charge of the street cafés but have not come up with a plan for over two years,” Lynn said. “Many of the cafés are in sub-par condition due to the confusing and ever-changing rules concerning them. At this point, New Yorkers consider a lot of them eyesores but restaurants cannot afford to improve them without DOT finalizing the regulations. Frustrating to say the least.”



  1. Pleased that the DOT asked for removal of the structures. Both jutted out into the road and created an unsafe situation for cyclists who are able to safely follow the dedicated cycle path for blocks, and are suddenly presented with the wall of the dining structure and parked cars blocking the way just prior to navigating the always congested intersection with Chambers.

    I also do not see how the structures predating the city bike lane route changes the situation. Building a dining structure on the street doesn’t give a restaurant the right to use said public property for private use for eternity any more than you putting a lawn chair or cone in your favorite parking spot gives you exclusive private rights to use that spot forever.

  2. It is unfortunate that a great city constantly fails in the hand of incompetent bureaucrats and shortsighted individuals. Restaurant sheds run well give life to a neighborhood and are a much better use of public space than parked cars or simply cordoned off white space like much of West Broadway is. Both the Odeon and Serafina sheds where well constructed and pleasing and there was also enough room for the bike path.

    It is a shame they are gone and a loss.

  3. I still think the best solution is to widen sidewalks, and require any outdoor dining to be directly adjacent to the restaurant (with or without possible fold-out awning or more permanent structure). This way there is no service blocking sidewalks, no need to put structures out in the street, no conflict with bike lanes, and so on.

  4. Not to mention that the benefit to the city is way greater by using the public road space for restaurants than four parked cars. It provides employment and gets tax revenue through sales tax and restaurant income tax. A much more productive use of public space

  5. The Odeon’s dining shed was particularly dangerous to cyclists.I use that path daily and the squeeze between cars and the shed with uneven roadway was always challenging. Certainly restaurants can abide by a more moderate cafe style seating arrangement.

  6. Unlike Bill I am extremely disappointed that the Odeon dining shed has been removed. I bike down to the PATH station regularly, and there is ample room for me to be routed around the shed. I would do much more than be slightly inconvenienced to keep wonderful people like Roya and Mary (hosts at Odeon) and Lynn’s entire team gainfully employed.

    Further, the sheds were not only functional they were tasteful, always clean and festive. It was always fun to walk by and see and hear everyone enjoying themselves day and night. I will miss them until (hopefully) they can come back.


  7. The 8’ clear path (outside table width & 3’ service path) is vital to residential & pedestrian use, and subway grates do not count. This fundamental (not to mention open doors & windows, sheds constructed well past frontage lines) has been shredded by restaurants & bars sheds & sidewalk operations across the entire City during this “Temporary” program, but none so bad as historic narrow residential streets & sidewalks in high density resistant & bar areas. Yes by all means get out your tape measure and see for yourself what thousands of us who actually live above and beside these OR operations already know, the DOT woefully unenforce, and City pols pretend doesn’t exist month after month. Whatever you do, don’t ask any restaurant owner investment group or @OpenPlans fanatics, because we all already know it’s a “lifeline”, “creates jobs”, “reimagines our public space”, and “popular with New Yorkers”. Above all don’t concern yourself with neighborhoods saturated with sheds that haven’t had their streets swept in 3 years…after all, what’s the big deal? Who cares?

  8. Oh yeah, keep prioritizing the bike lanes, which bicyclists ignore often enough anyway, and ignore that their existence pushes delivery trucks into a lane on the street and then draws pedestrians looking to cross into almost the middle of the street and wonder why we have so many people on foot dying in traffic accidents.

  9. There are 2 separate issues here:

    1. The temporary structures were built out of necessity, but were constructed with no eye towards permanence, or safety. They were interim lifelines for restaurants
    2. The existence of temporary structures revealed an unmet quality of life benefit for visitors and residents, and unlocked additional streams of revenue for operators by creating capacity

    The missing piece here is not whether to tear them down – as temporary structures, they really need to come down, esp. if they’re heavily utilized given the limited governance on how these things were built.

    The missing piece is for the city to establish appropriate parameters for this to exist in a more permanent capacity with appropriate consideration for everything – pedestrians, cyclists, cars, and even the restaurant workers and outdoor patrons.

    The only reason anyone should be up in arms is because we know our city government couldn’t possibly execute on something like that in a fast and thoughtful way, so we’re just going to have to do without.

  10. Thanks for this article. I note that Odeon and Serafina- both great locals to me and enjoyed as a consumer- both already have and continue to have year round outside dining, and Serafina an underused (because they only offer a limited $$$ menu up there) rooftop. Reclaiming the pavement for pedestrians, not accidental collisions with a bowl of pasta, and the road space for safe transport make more sense to me. I acknowledge both restaurants had clearly created higher quality structures than many but all the same, not on their commercial premises.

    To be glib:: I could do with a garden so I think I’ll build one on the street. Maybe I’ll even charge others to use it.

  11. Widen the sidewalks. Get rid of street parking. Street parking is a public subsidy to drivers use of valuable land anyway. And yes I own a car.

  12. Thank you for taking a photo of the ugliest eyesore of all the sheds – the Zona monstrosity that never followed city rules for 8 ft clearance for pedestrians. Always shocked that this plywood and plastic overbuilt huge shed(s) had not been put on notice before. Also very happy that the Odeon shed has been taken down too. Outdoor eating tables should remain close to the restaurant facade.

  13. Keep outdoor dining, but get rid of the sheds. Widen sidewalks or if not possible build a non-roofed platform in the street where parking was. Odeon’s shed was particularly ugly and poorly placed. I also don’t weep for Odeon’s economic loss. It does fine.

    • Exactly. Widen the sidewalks. Make European-style café seating, adjacent to the restaurant, with movable/removable tables and chairs, and if desired, awnings attached to the buildings.

  14. Zona Tribeca shed(s) is the worst. It has ruined a beautiful street.

  15. I am mystified by the glorification of cyclists here. They are far more dangerous ( in my opinion) than any dining shed, as there seems to be no attempt to keep them from ignoring stop signs,
    speeding in the wrong direction, using the sidewalks, etc..
    This is not only true of delivery people – citi bike users, suited office
    workers…..and don’t get me started on scooters, and other silent wheeled devices, coming at one everywhere!
    Because of reckless cyclists, walking in the city has become
    way more perilous. Why can’t something be done about that?

    • Agreed. However, as I see it, the key is not to the eradicate cyclists, but rather to get the to follow the rules and ride safely.

      For example, crossing the bike path into Hudson River Park is always an adventure. Cyclists are supposed to yield to pedestrians, but I’ve nearly been run down many times by non-yielding cyclists. (Although I’ve always found that “yield’ rule unclear: Does it only mean yield to pedestrians already in the bike lane, or also those who are about to step into the lane from the sidewalk?)

      Central Park is also another danger zone for pedestrians where many cyclists think they are in the Tour de France.

      E-bikes are indeed a menace unless they obey the rules. Every day I see them speeding down sidewalks, the wrong way down streets, through red lights, etc.

  16. Best news in a long time. Outdoor dining shed was supposed to be a temporary measure during the pandemic. Of course once the restaurants realized the chance of a life time free real estate grabbing there is no stopping them. Lost revenue? Please. It was already anticipated that restaurants would try everything to ‘grand father in’ the illegal sheds and sidewalk seatings. I have traveled in other big cities both in the US and other countries since Covid, NYC stands out in the lawlessness of sheds and sidewalk seating ( no, it’s not like Paris, at all)
    So please stop this charade and give our sidewalk and streets back.

    • I completely agree. These sheds are an eyesore and these restaurants are capitalizing on FREE real estate so that their PRIVATE business owners can profit. Loss of jobs? Well the restaurants created that need for these jobs. There’s no “free lunch”. Free outdoor dining space?! Are you kidding me. The so-called pandemic is over. Give us (the public) back our land! As for parking, CRITICAL delivery trucks need some place to pull over and deliver the ingredients that restaurants NEED to carry out their business. When parking spaces are displaced by FREE real estate for restaurant owners to profit from, streets bottleneck and traffic is worsened. Don’t be so short sighted and cry with the restaurant owners: you rent or own a restaurant, NOT the PUBLIC sidewalk and PUBLIC streets OUTSIDE of your restaurant. At this time, with COVID mandates in the past, encroaching on this PUBLIC space is GREED. The restaurant owners should have been very clear that the workers hired to cater to this additional seating was a temporary job, and that this outdoor dining would eventually end.

      I value our restaurants, but this GREED is unacceptable, and MOST of these sheds look like complete $#!T!

    • I totally agree with these comments.

      Let’s get these sheds off the streets! The most sensible policy is to immediately and significantly expand our sidewalks so that tables can be set there and we all have more space to walk.

  17. If the Odeon re-builds further out in the street with the bike lane passing just in front of the shed doors it will take only one patron with a few martinis under the belt to back out of it and into a passing motor bike — and then a trip to the hospital — to question the wisdom of such a plan.

    These sheds were made to alleviate loss of revenue as the pandemic required restaurants to strictly limit on indoor dining. Restaurants are now jammed to the brim inside. The sheds are now just a gift of real estate from the city to them.

    Neighbors re-claim your streets!

  18. “As much as I could care less about preserving parking, this is a private use of public space and should be evaluated that way” -street parking is also a private use of a public space and yet it’s been allowed to exist in the city for generations without DOT intervening. Get rid of street parking, bring back the sheds, bring in the trash receptacles that will end the rat scourge, and there you go.

  19. By the way, what is the situation with Belle Reve’s “shed”? Is this an option for restaurants and bars? Originally they had a shed out in the street. Then they removed that and basically built an add-on into the building, faced it to look like brick, so it looks like it was always there and a permanent part of the structure. Go inside though and you see sidewalk concrete as the “floor”.

    Actually, perhaps this is a better solution than sheds in the street, but should go along with widening the sidewalks as well, since that addition reduced sidewalk space.

    • The Belle Reve illegal addition is a prime example of egregious appropriation of public space, the fake brick façade is the epitome of transgression. I am bewildered by your praising of such behavior. And no they kept the shed as well, and the speaker on the side of the building. They’ve taken full advantage of the pandemic. The restaurant Anejo across the street also has sheds on Walker and Church. The one on Walker sits empty most of the time. Surely as it gets warmer they will put out tables on the sidewalk as well.
      The other shes on Church also sit empty most of the time. But they don’t see any reason to take them down.
      Sidewalk and street belong to the public, not restaurants, period.

      • I wasn’t praising the behavior in its current form, so my apologies if it sounded that way. I meant it more as a question regarding its status, whether it is permissible (or was permissible) even under the outdoor dining program.

        I do believe that seating adjacent to the restaurant, instead out out in the street, is the best solution, but only if it goes with widening the sidewalk at least as much as the lost space which the restaurant uses. And clearly restaurants should pay a fee for such sidewalk usage. But I think properly managed outdoor seating can work well and enhance a neighborhood street. Obviously, placement and noise level and such must be considered. Ideally this would be removable tables and seatings, with or without some kind of retractable or removable awning or umbrellas. So, basically, European-style café seating. (Now a semi-permanent or permanent structure like Belle Reve did seems an extreme case, and seems it would require a whole other level of licensing, community review, fees, real estate taxes, etc.).

  20. The Scalini Fedeli shed is not only an eyesore, it has been a haven for multiple generations of rats. Our super paints over graffiti on a regular basis. It is filled with trash, inside and out. (They very recently cleaned it up but it won’t last.) We have almost never seen anyone dining there.

    • I would not dine at a restaurant the caliber of Scalini Fedeli and sit in a CRAPPY outdoor shed. The same with most of these crappy spaces. To go out for dinner at Tamarind and sit in one of these ridiculous booths (post pandemic) is, in my opinion, the epitome of low class.

  21. What about Walker’s sheds? they extend literally on one side such that the actual sidewalk is taken over. they also have two sides in use. Similary situation for Bubby’s.

    I do think it is time for these sheds to be removed and zoning to come back in. Hopefully the restaurant owners will understand that there is a large fraction of neighbors (not all but per these posts high fraction ) that do not want the sheds. they can voluntarily take them down – i.e, La Conde Verde.

  22. Drivers of cars who pay for insurance, inspection, registration, to get their driver’s license, meters and other expenses should not be forced to give up parking spaces to bicyclists who don’t pay a dime. DOT makes millions of dollars from meters and parking violations to keep the roads safe.(they’re supposed to, but don’t). When bicyclists obey traffic laws the way car drivers are supposed to, then I’ll care about them. This isn’t China. This is NYC, a driving and walking city.

    • Unfortunately Chinese cities have been filled with cars for decades, you might be referring to the 1980s! Anyway, bikes or cars are just distractions from the real issue here, wrongful appropriation of public land and now trying to keep it illegally.

    • The entitlement is oh so real.

      Our streets far predate the car, it’s public space, and most people who live in Manhattan don’t drive, yet drivers are giving up that space?

      It seems pretty clear to me that the people were forced to give it up long ago as a massive handout to noisy, polluting, dangerous drivers. Drivers have just forgotten that it’s not actually theirs because it’s such a valuable handout. Their entire lives depend on it.

      Mindlessly circling the block feverishly hunting for that perfect free spot, they’re like drug addicts desperately seeking that perfect high…

  23. Have you seen the hideous shed in front of Scalini Fideli? There is rarely anyone in it. I have lived on Duane Street for over 42 years and it is heartbreaking to see such a filthy, derelict piece of structure ruin the ambiance of the historic street. I can’t imagine anyone viewing the way in which they maintain the shed would venture into the restaurant to eat. The filth caught in the hardware cloth to prevent rats has turned into cement and yet the rats still manage to maneuver their way under. If you pass by be mindful of the concave plywood roof which looks like it is about to blow off.

    • I agree, this shed is an eyesore and I haven’t seen it being used in over a year. We’ve also noticed a huge issues with rats there. They need to take it down!

  24. . . . and please don’t tell me that these restaurant expansions into public property “create jobs”. If Central Park were divided up among Manhattan restaurants believe me plenty of jobs would be created . . .

  25. Has anyone thought about fire trucks’ accessibility to buildings?

    • Please. Cars have blocked fire trucks forever. Including the hydrants. “Has anyone thought about the children!”

    • — clearly the City has not

      • Unfortunately it will take only one tragedy in which Fire Dept. equipment and workers will be compromised and unable to do their work effectively because of the sheds to make the City take notice

        • It is easier to chop through the sheds than parked cars. Somehow FDNY is also able to fight fires in buildings where there are construction sidewalk sheds erected.

  26. In the west village I watched as fire fighters jump out of the firetruck to move all the tables and chairs randomly placed on the street next to the shed belonging to this bar. The shed made the passage so narrow that the firetruck could barely squeeze through. No one from the bar even came out to help! Yes it could be a hasard.