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Too Many Sidewalk Cafes are Cluttering Ditmars Boulevard, Neighbors Say

By Jeanmarie Evelly | May 19, 2016 5:01pm | Updated on May 20, 2016 5:52pm
 The owners of The Pomeroy, at 36-12 Ditmars Blvd., want to add eight tables with 16 chairs outside the restaurant.
The owners of The Pomeroy, at 36-12 Ditmars Blvd., want to add eight tables with 16 chairs outside the restaurant.
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DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly

ASTORIA — It's a sidewalk showdown.

A Ditmars Boulevard restaurant's application for sidewalk seating has reignited a neighborhood debate about Astoria's outdoor eateries, amid complaints that the cafes bring noise and create obstacles for pedestrians.

The owners of The Pomeroy, a seasonal restaurant at 36-12 Ditmars Blvd., came before Community Board 1 Tuesday night in its quest for a sidewalk cafe license that would allow it to put eight tables with 16 chairs outside the eatery.

The request spurred opposition from some neighboring business owners who said they're worried about noise and the amount of space the tables would take up on the sidewalk.

"This is not a restaurant...it's a bar," said Nicholas Vagenas, who owns a furniture shop next door to The Pomeroy.

He presented the board with letters of opposition he'd collected from neighbors, and photos he'd taken of patrons milling outside the eatery.

"The doors are left open," he complained to board members. "There's crowds of 20, 30 people outside."

David, the owner of a fabric store on the block who declined to give his last name, said that while the number of new restaurants along Ditmars Boulevard is good for local businesses, there are too many already with sidewalk seating.

"It's a problem — there are too many tables," he said. "Old people, they cannot walk."

Astoria's outdoor cafes have been a source of contention before, a debate between those who complain about them and those who feel they add to the charm of the neighborhood's commercial streets.

In 2012, residents complained to the community board about the abundance of sidewalk seating on 30th Avenue, with one person at the time saying saying they've "grown like a tumor" there.

"This is an old fight," said Shiela Morris, a longtime Astoria resident who said she's frequently spoken out against the cafes and the quality of life issues related to them.

"You cannot even walk," she said. "I've gone up Ditmars at night. You have to see it to believe it."

There are currently a dozen restaurants along Ditmars Boulevard that have a license from the Department of Consumer Affairs to operate a sidewalk cafe, according to city data.

An additional five eateries, including The Pomeroy, have come before CB1 in the last four months to apply for one, board minutes show.

At Tuesday's meeting, The Pomeroy's owners agreed to several stipulations put forth by the board, including keeping its doors and windows closed at night, cleaning the sidewalk three times a day and regularly meeting with the 114th Precinct to discuss any issues with neighbors that might arise.

"We want to be good neighbors," the restaurant's co-owner Michael McGuire said.

CB1 ultimately voted to recommend in favor of the restaurant's sidewalk cafe license but asked that the number of tables be reduced from eight to four. The board's decision is only a recommendation, however, and the city's Department of Consumer Affairs will ultimately decide.

McGuire said having sidewalk seating is "essential" to the restaurant's success, especially when it's competing against so many neighboring eateries that can offer customers the outdoor option.

"We just want to be treated like the other cafes in the neighborhood," he said.