Beginning this weekend, restaurant owners on Bell Boulevard will be able to expand their outdoor dining options under a new citywide initiative that combines two popular programs: Open Streets and Open Restaurants.
Belle Boulevard is among the first 22 locations for the program that will open to pedestrians, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday. Another 10 to 20 corridors will be approved by Friday, July 17.
Restaurants on these corridors will be able to place seating further away from the curb than other Open Restaurants participants, and the remaining street space will be open to pedestrian traffic.
The Bayside Village Improvement District will be managing two connected streets in Bayside as part of the program: Bell Boulevard, between 39th and 41st avenues; and 41st Avenue, between Bell Boulevard and 214th Place.
These streets will be fully closed to vehicles on Friday evenings, from 5 to 11 p.m., and Saturdays, and for expanded outdoor dining on Fridays and Saturdays from 6 to 11 p.m. and from noon to 10 p.m. on Sundays. Expanded seating will last until Labor Day (Monday, Sept. 7).
An emergency clear lane will be maintained down the middle of the street to make sure that the streets remain safe and passable for emergency vehicles.
Councilman Paul Vallone was thrilled to share the news about the initiative, which will offer some more dine-in food service in the open air.
“This gives New Yorkers a safe way to enjoy a meal out while supporting their favorite local eateries,” said Vallone, who is also chair of the Committee on Economic Development.
According to State Assemblyman Ed Braunstein, the opening up of Bell Boulevard for expanded outdoor dining will “help businesses begin to recover from the shutdown.”
Meanwhile, restaurant owners expressed joy upon hearing the news.
“Between our customers and our restaurant owners, it’s hard to tell who’s happier!” said Christine Silletti, executive director of the Bayside Village BID. “It was important to support all of our small businesses, so we discussed the options as a community, as well as block by block, in order to come up with a plan. Council member Vallone and his staff, Community Board 11, and the 111th Precinct have been super supportive of our small businesses and their need to get back to work (and fun) in a safe way.”
Dominick Bruccoleri, Bayside Village BID chairman and owner of Papazzio Restaurant, said the organization is happy that the city allowed outdoor dining.
“We are now extremely excited that we can expand our outside dining by closing the streets on weekends,” Bruccoleri said. “The response from the community and our existing patrons has been not only overwhelmingly positive, but has also given Bell Boulevard a new face, look, and is the place to be.”
In the meantime, the mayor said he’s looking forward to expanding the program in the coming weeks.
“Combining our popular Open Streets and Open Restaurants programs will give more New Yorkers the space they deserve to enjoy the outdoors safely — and give small businesses the chance to rebuild after facing unprecedented challenges this spring,” de Blasio said.
Polly Trottenberg, commissioner of the Department of Transportation, said they’re excited to be able to give restaurants the additional room they need to welcome more customers, so that they can all work together to rebuild the key sector of the city’s local economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We thank everyone from all the BIDs and other neighborhood organizations who made the case that expanding the vision of our Open Streets program to grow outdoor dining will be good for New Yorkers’ quality of life and the city’s bottom line,” Trottenberg said.