Opinion | Should Those Sidewalk Dining Sheds Stay or Go?

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To the Editor:

Re “Tear Down the Sheds for Dining,” by Daniel L. Doctoroff (Opinion guest essay, July 24):

I disagree that the sheds need to come down.

New York City’s Open Restaurants program bolsters our city’s vibrant street life, provides millions of dollars in revenue to restaurants, and has preserved and created thousands of restaurant and construction jobs.

Many of the structures from last year have been upgraded or replaced with attractive and professionally built spaces. If restaurant owners have the confidence that the outdoor dining program will continue, there is every reason to assume that they will continue to invest in and maintain their outdoor spaces, just as they do their restaurant interiors.

If we sow doubt about the future of the program, what restaurateur would continue to invest in a structure that he may be required to tear down?

Mr. Doctoroff’s fear of “eyesores” would become self-fulfilling.

Christopher D. Canfield
New York

To the Editor:

Yes, dining sheds are an eyesore, but the process that may keep them on our streets is even uglier.

Outdoor dining was rushed through the City Council in just three weeks, with only a single hearing in which the chief outside witness was the New York City Hospitality Alliance.

Community boards were not consulted. For the last six months, the City Planning Department has been trying to rig the zoning code to permit these loud, late-night outdoor commercial enterprises on streets reserved for residential use. The sole outside group working with the department has been the hospitality alliance.

Permanent outdoor dining is a textbook example of back-room politics. Removed from public debate, beholden to private interests, detached from communities that are most affected, permanent outdoor dining would have made Robert Moses smile.

Stuart Waldman
New York
The writer is a member of the Coalition United for Equitable Urban Policy, an alliance of neighborhood organizations, block associations, businesses and residents.

To the Editor:

Daniel L. Doctoroff outlines the downside of all the outdoor dining sheds, which have been a lifeline for thousands of restaurants during the pandemic, and suggests other uses for them.

For New Yorkers not living near a park or having the luxury of a weekend getaway place, these outdoor dining sheds, many filled with flowers and plants, offer a needed outdoor stress reducer, especially for many of the elderly.

Sheds provide a great way to people-watch and take a break from walking.

Steven Cohen
New York

To the Editor:

A timely suggestion by Daniel L. Doctoroff!

I recently walked down Madison Avenue from 92nd to 82nd Street. That area used to have a series of delightful places to stop for a pastry. Now the sheds have turned these blocks into an appalling sight like others on the once-elegant Upper East Side.

Increasing my pain, I compared them with photos of outdoor eating places on the sidewalks of the Marais in Paris that a friend sent to me.

Luisa Stigol
New York

Delta Variant Warrants Masking Up in the Subway

To the Editor:

Re “Worker Shortage Cuts Thousands of Subway Trips, Leading to Longer Wait Times” (news article, July 14) and “As Delta Spreads, Virus Cases Rise in New York City” (news article, July 15):

There is an obvious connection between these two articles: Having to wait longer for trains hastens the spread of the Delta variant.

It is not possible to practice social distancing on overcrowded trains. Add to that the increasing number of riders either maskless or not fully masked, and it’s no wonder that virus cases have risen.

As a result of rapidly changing and inconsistent messaging, no doubt many people think that wearing masks on public transportation in New York City is now a personal choice. But the Metropolitan Transportation Authority policy requires masking onboard trains and in enclosed stations, with certain exceptions.

The cartoonish drawings seeking to cajole people into wearing masks for the sake of their fellow passengers were ineffectual to begin with and are now risible. There should be strongly worded signs in every subway car stating that wearing a mask — correctly, with both mouth and nose fully covered — is not just a considerate thing to do, it’s required.

Ann J. Kirschner

Justice and the Juvenile Brain

To the Editor:

Re “Police Don’t Know Enough About Teenagers,” by Meryl Davids Landau (Opinion guest essay, July 19):

Central to the “Policing the Teenage Brain” training program is the recognition that there are fundamental differences between juvenile and adult brains.

Neuroscience and developmental psychology teach that the prefrontal cortex — the brain region associated with complex cognitive behavior that controls decision making, weighing risk and assessing consequences — is not fully developed until our mid-20s. As a result, adolescents are susceptible to negative influences and prone to risky behavior.

A primary driver of the current blight of mass incarceration is the massive sentences routinely meted out to young people during the past several decades. While the awareness that adolescents are not fully responsible for their actions should curtail police interactions at the outset, it must also translate to meaningful review and resentencing for the many people serving life and de facto life sentences that were fueled by the racist trope of the young superpredator.

Steven Zeidman
Long Island City, Queens
The writer is a professor at the CUNY School of Law.

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