HELL'S KITCHEN - Since the pandemic, outdoor dining has been a regular part of life in New York City, but the structures that have been built to accommodate people looking to eat al fresco may be forced to come down because they conflict with plans for a new bike lane.
Tulcingo del Valle, a family-owned business in Hells Kitchen, spent $40,000 on an outdoor dining shed made of wood, metal and state-of-the-art lighting, heating and insect repellers.
Owner Irma Verdejo said the shed was built with love to accommodate customers who prefer dining outside.
Unfortunately, their investment appears to be in jeopardy as they recently received a notice from the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) that the shed must be taken down.
Verdejo said the business is small and the $40,000 was a lot of money for them, but Tulcingo del Valle is their entire world.
"We are supposed to disassemble in the next 3-4 days," Verdejo said, adding it's sad to see the money they spent go to waste.
The shed is blocking part of 10th Avenue where the DOT is planning to implement a bike lane.
Three months ago, the city notified Verdejo they could keep the shed if they made some upgrades.
After giving a deposit of $1,800, the restaurant made the necessary improvements.
However, they received a notice to remove the shed a few weeks later, with the estimated cost of removal being another $3,000 to $5,000.
"I think it's not fair, but what can I do?" Verdejo said.
The shed has been a lifeline for the business during a stressful few years and has helped them stay afloat during the pandemic.
Verdejo and her family have reached out to the city for help, with no response so far. They have called 311 and asked for assistance in removing the structure or a partial reimbursement. So far, no response.
FOX 5 NY brought the concerns to the NYC DOT. They responded in a statement, saying:
"The redesign of 10th Avenue will make it dramatically safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and all road users. Completing this life-saving work requires the removal of select outdoor dining sheds installed under the city’s temporary outdoor dining program. We have communicated with all impacted business owners and are hopeful that improved accessibility and a welcoming street environment will be a benefit to the community and help all small businesses succeed."