By Jill Colvin
MIDTOWN — Midtown's first pop-up café will open on East 41st Street this summer after a narrow community board vote Thursday night.
O'Casey's pub squeaked by in a 19-to-16 vote in favor of its plan to transform three parking spots outside of its outpost at 22 E. 41 St. between Fifth and Madison avenues into a mini-public plaza with tables and chairs where anyone can stop to take a seat.
The café is part of a pilot program launched by the Department of Transportation last year to bring more public space to streets where sidewalk cafés are not allowed.
While most decisions by the board are only advisory, CB5 has final say when it comes to the cafés.
"We're feeling great. It's a great idea," said Karl O'Connor, 38, one of the owners of O'Casey's, which will cover the $10,000 construction cost and hopes the café will boost business.
But board members were deeply divided over the concept of the cafés and whether they belong in Midtown.
One described the cafés as "an assault on the public use of our district." Some felt putting people so close to traffic was dangerous. Others were scared that their approval would open the floodgates to a wave of cafés that would gobble up parking spots on already crowded streets.
"Why does DOT want to do this?" contested Robyn Hatcher, who urged fellow board members to vote against the plan.
But in the end, the majority of members decided the cafés idea was worth a try and felt that O'Casey's location, which sits between the main branch of the public library and Pershing Square, was the best option they'd have.
"If we we're going to try it somewhere, that was going to be the place," board member Layla Law-Gisiko said.
Board member Ron Dwenger agreed the board should use the block as a test case so that when the DOT weighs the program in the future, it will have a say.
"I think these are potentially great ideas," he said.
The new café is expected to be open from mid-May through mid-October for the next two years.