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The New York City Department of Transportation has a program
that partners with local businesses
to install pop-up cafés in parking spaces
during the warmer weather months. These spaces can be installed with a minimal
amount of time and money (cost has averaged at around $10,000). At the end of season,
the sponsoring businesses must remove and store the installation.
The city calls these spaces "Street
Seats", and they are not limited to cafes: "Any type of business or institution
that owns or operates frontage at the ground floor of a building may be eligible
to install a Street Seat."
Businesses that apply to participate in the program have to
meet design guidelines, but they can spend as much or as little money as they
want. The spaces must be maintained by the sponsoring business and be open to
all members of the public, regardless of whether or not they buy anything. The
city only provides the permission, and it does not fund any of the costs.
Service at the seats is limited by the regulation : "the sponsoring business may
not take orders nor exchange money in the Street Seat. However, if patrons order
products inside the business, they may be brought out to them at a table."
New York City Street Seats Program
Smoking or alcohol drinking at the spaces is forbidden. Some businesses just
hope to attract foot traffic with their cafes. From the point of view of
the city, the cafes should provide
neighborhood gathering places to
socialize, and hopefully they would also help "beautify" the streets with
attractive landscaping or sylish structures. Note that the information provided here is only of a summary nature. Interested parties
need to consult the city regulations.
Siting and Operation
The cafes or seats are meant to take the place of parking spaces, so their platforms
widths are restricted to 6 feet, in order to be narrower than surrounding parked cars.
The maximum length of the platform is limited to the frontage of the sponsoring business. Locations
are also limited by safety and practical considerations: "The adjoining sidewalk must be free of major
obstructions and fire hydrants, driveways, or bus stops."
During the months of operation, the installation and surrounding area must be
routinely cleaned and maintained by the sponsoring business.
"must be designed by a New York State-certified architect or engineer and
installed by a licensed contractor," and they are inspected by the city.
Some standard designs are available to reduce design costs. One standard design
is characterized by a platform that is flush with the sidewalk to provide
wheelchair access. Another standard design sits directly on the roadbed, but it
requires a ramp for wheelchair access. The detailed implementation of the
standard designs must still be signed and sealed by a New York State-certified
architect or engineer.
"All installations must include plantings that screen the
seating area from traffic while still providing visual permeability across the
street and a continuous open edge along the curb. The installations must
maintain roadway drainage, be ADA complaint, and also allow for access to any
below-ground utilities." The sidewalk-facing side of the platform should be open
Sullivan Street Cafe
One example of this program was the space created on Sullivan Street by
the owners of the Local restaurant. They built
a temporary, 16-foot wooden deck in two
parking spots in front of their restaurant. They thought of it as more of their "porch"
rather than a pop-up
cafe. The deck is enclosed on three sides by four-foot high
walls, topped with sea grass plantings.
There are benches all around the wall,
and an umbrella provides shading. Quoting a user:
"This is a nice outside area to sit in and to be a part of the street."
Photo © Sullivan Street Local Restaurant.
This website is not a professional guide, but an editing of existing referenced
material for educational purposes. The website author assumes no responsibility
for any problems resulting from using the material presented in this website.
New York City Street Seats Program
Project for Public Spaces: A Day in the Life of a Pop-Up Café
Transportation Nation: NYC Neighbors React to Pop-Up Cafes
Tree Hugger: A NYC Coffee Shop Transforms its Parking Spaces into Outdoor Seating