Abandoned NYC Outdoor Dining Sheds Have Turned Into Homeless Shelters, Garbage Dumps

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Outdoor dining sheds that were constructed so restaurants could adhere to strict COVID-19 guidelines are leading to problems for NYC residents. As restaurants have shuttered due to lockdown-induced hardships or re-shifted towards indoor dining, the outdoor sheds have turned into homeless shelters and garbage dumps.

Large, mostly cube-shaped outdoor dining sheds were constructed at restaurants across the nation in 2020. The sheds became a common sight as states with strict COVID guidelines began to allow outdoor dining after months of strict lockdown measures. Outdoor dining sheds allowed businesses to re-open, albeit at limited capacity.

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New York City has nearly 12,000 outdoor setups dot city streets, including 1,202 located in the roadway; 4,295 on the sidewalk; and 6,047 that are a combination of both sidewalk and street, according to the NYC Department of Transportation. According to a report from the New York Post, several now-abandoned dining sheds have turned into makeshift homeless shelters and garbage dumps. “These sheds are an eyesore — people are now depositing garbage in them. Why are they up months after restaurants have shut down?” a New Yorker said in a complaint to the Department of Buildings. Another resident said the abandoned structures have become “breeding grounds” for rats.

One New York resident, Leif Arntzen, told the Post that he frequently sees homeless people sleeping in the shelters. He said the homeless will flock to the abandoned sheds, most of which consist simply of plywood, after restaurants close for the day or on days where they are closed. Several functioning and open restaurants that have dining sheds they no longer have use for are dealing with these issues just outside their doors.

The problem is increasing for New York City as many restaurants have either shuttered due to lockdown-related restrictions or shifted entirely to indoor dining. Landlords and business owners often don’t have the funds to remove the structures regardless of whether they want to or not. NYC restaurateurs recently reported that COVID passports have led to a 60% loss in business since being implemented.

New York City has some of of the most strict COVID and vaccine measures in the country. The city’s vaccine passport program recently took effect, which requires residents and visitors to provide proof of vaccination in order to enter most if not all buildings. Residents and visitors must provide proof of vaccination via an app in order to gain entry to restaurants, bars, gyms and large gatherings such as sporting events.