Turtle Bay Residents Voice Opposition to Pop-Up Cafe
By Amy Zimmer
DNAinfo News Editor
MANHATTAN — The application for a Le Pain Quotidien pop-up café at 44th Street and Third Avenue was approved by Community Board 6, but now it's facing opposition from Turtle Bay residents.
"I'm trying to get CB6 to change its mind," said Bruce Silberblatt, of the Turtle Bay Association. "The problem with these pop ups, you don't know where they're going to pop up, literally. It just sets a bad precedent."
Taking a nod from Europe's outdoor café culture, the Department of Transportation launched a "pop-up café" program to provide seating in the parking lane during the warm months to expand public space and promote local business.
Several Manhattan community boards — which have the final say on the pop-ups — have voiced opposition to the program.
Only one of six cafes proposed for Greenwich Village and SoHo got the go-ahead from Community Board 2. In the Upper East Side, one board member at a recent meeting for Community Board 8 — which has received no submissions — preemptively said they wouldn't be welcome there. This week, Community Board 5 is expected to consider three pop ups.
The cafes must be in front of restaurants that don't qualify for café licenses. Though they cannot be in traffic lanes, bus stops, in front of fire hydrants or active driveways, some residents are still concerned about congestion — even though the program is intended to create more public space by having restaurants build platforms for seating in the street.
The pop-ups are designed to act like public plazas and offer seats for everyone, regardless of whether they buy food.
"We think the location is inappropriate," Silberblatt said. "It's a busy area, part of the Midtown commercial district, which, last I heard, is supposedly the commercial capital of the world."
Silberblatt was concerned about the impact of the Le Pain Quotidien moving there and taking over spots for a taxi stand.
"DOT doesn't seem to realize that street space is limited and there are only so many things you can jam into it," he said.
The community board through its weight behind the proposal for the 32-seat cafe, issuing a resolution saying it "will provide much needed public open space, relieve sidewalk crowding and improve the existing streetscape with planting and seating."
The board believes Le Pain Quotidien will do a good job cleaning and maintaining the space since it has experience with its outdoor café in Central Park.
Mark Thompson, the chair of CB6, didn't think the board would reconsider its vote, but acknowledged the pop-up issue isn't dead.
"People on the board still have questions about it," Thompson said. "We passed a resolution that DOT can go through with it, but if another proposal to us is brought to us, we'll look at it carefully."
He added: "If this one actually gets installed, we will monitor it very closely."