NYC tears down outdoor dining shed at Manhattan art gallery

This week, artist Mimi Blitz, the owner of Pinky’s Space on 70 East 1st St., arrived at the small art gallery-restaurant she owns with her husband, to find an 18-man crew, ripping apart her beloved $50,000 outdoor dining space, the restaurant's lifeline from the pandemic's start to present.

"They said ‘Ma'am, this is how it’s going to go. Number one, the structure is going down. Number two, the structure is going down, and you're going to be arrested,’" Blitz said.

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The New York City Department of Transportation says it warned Pinky's Space three times that the outdoor space was not adhering to guidelines, i.e. the manhole was covered, the shed was too far from the curb, it lacked reflective materials, and was not ADA accessible. The structure was also found to be storing non-dining components, among other issues.  

However, Blitz said she fixed the issues.

"We have rights," Blitz said. "We had a permit that was valid. We had an inspection like 10 days ago, nobody said anything about removing the structure. How can the city, show up, unannounced? They just took it away."

But in August, the city announced it was removing abandoned sheds, and reviewing sheds that violated guidelines. It also encouraged residents to call 311 on outdoor spaces.

Some neighbors told FOX 5 NY that Pinky’s Space was a fun, friendly communal space, where people could come together, grab a bit to eat, and paint. But others said it had become a den of rampant drug use.

"I walk my dog early in the morning, often late at night," said Daniel K. Nelson, who lives nearby. "And I feel very unsafe doing a walk around this block. They’re loud. They literally have needles in their arms, in the dining shed. I’ve never seen food delivered to this dining shed in two years, I've only seen people taking drugs."

Nelson says he knows of other neighbors who have complained. Mimi is aware, denying their claims, but does believe their calls to 311 put a target on Pinky's Space.

"In three hours," she said, "they took down two years of work and our whole livelihood."

Blitz has started a GoFundMe to help hire a lawyer to fight the city,