The Answer Column: It’s Been Closed for Two Years, So Why Is Artie’s Still Clogging Our Arteries?

By Carol Tannenhauser

New York City sidewalks can feel like an obstacle course, especially when the weather warms and sidewalk cafes appear. It’s one thing to have your path obstructed by a lively group of outdoor diners, but what about an abandoned “enclosed sidewalk cafe,” like the one attached to the now-defunct Artie’s Delicatessen, on Broadway, between 82nd and 83rd?

WSR reader Douglas Cowan wants to know:

“How did Artie’s Restaurant get permission to enclose their outdoor space and take up half of the public sidewalk permanently? And now that the restaurant is gone, what happens? Can the public get the sidewalk back?”

For answers, we turned to Community Board 7, which is responsible for reviewing applications for licenses to operate sidewalk cafes on the Upper West Side. The process involves extensive documentation, zoning, permits, fees, public hearings, and approvals by numerous city agencies and the City Council. It also requires the payment of “consent” fees — the equivalent of rent for the use of public space. CB7 is an advisory board; its recommendations about the applications are sent to the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), which licenses sidewalk cafes.

There are three kinds of sidewalk cafes: unenclosed, small unenclosed, and enclosed. CB7 Chairperson Roberta Semer said enclosed sidewalk cafes are no longer allowed on the Upper West Side. Existing ones are “grandfathered in.”

Linda Alexander, now co-chair of CB7’s Business & Consumer Issues Committee, remembers when Artie’s application was reviewed.

“The former Artie’s space was one of the last enclosed sidewalk cafes approved by CB7, going back more than a decade,” she wrote. “It is the same footprint as Artie’s original unenclosed sidewalk cafe, i.e. 9-feet from the building base, so it actually does not take up half of the 25-foot sidewalk, as suggested. But the sidewalk shed (scaffolding) covering the space certainly adds to the perception of it being oversized and exacerbates the reality of a pedestrian obstruction.”

According to the leasing agent, the scaffolding should come down in the next few months. The agent also said, “We are negotiating a deal with a new restaurant to take over the space.” A spokesperson for DCA told us that, at present, the cafe license is “inactive,” but, “after a restaurant closes, DCA allows its enclosed cafe to remain for a period of time to allow for its transition to a new owner. If the location remains unoccupied after that period, the landlord would be responsible for removing it.”

The leasing agent hopes the pending deal will close, though two before it didn’t. He also hopes the new operator will open the windows of the enclosed sidewalk cafe, giving it a “European” feel.

The bottom line, according to Semer, is that, “although enclosed sidewalk cafes are supposed to come down two years after a restaurant closes (Artie’s closed in April, 2017), that rarely happens. If the landlord doesn’t take them down, there’s really nothing CB7 can do.”

So, it looks like the cafe stays for now, with the hope that in the near future it will be easier and more pleasant to pass.

If you have a question for The Answer Column write it in the comments or send it to westsiderag@gmail dot com  Subject: Answer Column

    1. prefer not to say says:

      Thanks for this article.
      Artie’s site has also become a home for the homeless which has exacerbated the problem.

    2. Amy says:

      FWIW, the sidewalk in front of My Most Favorite Food on West 72nd is even worse.

    3. AC says:

      Nice article Carol, but I would have liked you to dig deeper. Perhaps expanding on how Friedland’s political connections allow City Hall to turn a blind eye.

      Semer is correct, “although enclosed sidewalk cafes are supposed to come down two years after a restaurant closes (Artie’s closed in April, 2017), that rarely happens. If the landlord doesn’t take them down, there’s really nothing CB7 can do.”

      Local Community Government at its best!

      CB7 should use its political clout to force the City to remove the eyesore.

    4. Juan says:

      Thanks for the very interesting update. My stomach really misses Artie’s. My wallet doesn’t miss it as much.

    5. A says:

      Anyone else think this is outrageous: “If the landlord doesn’t take them down, there’s really nothing CB7 can do.”

      • patrick says:

        CB7 is not an enforcement agency. The Department of Buildings should be the entity holding the landlord to account for this.

    6. Harriet says:

      Perhaps the landlord is making more money renting Artie’s out to film The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and he’s not in any hurry to rent it to a restaurant operator who will tear out the insides.

    7. Henry W. says:

      Just wondering about the definition of “enclosed” sidewalk cafe. Jacob’s Pickles regularly puts a roof and (removable) walls/doors around their sidewalk cafe (so that it’s fully enclosed), so I’m a bit curious how they can get away with that if there are no more permits for “enclosed” sidewalk cafes. And with their crowds waiting for a seat, there is virtually zero sidewalk space left.

    8. Glen says:

      The DOB should take the addition down and hit the LL with the cost of the removal by way of a lien until it is paid. The DoB does that with residential sidewalks in the outer boroughs.

    9. WombatNYC says:

      It would be nice if 2nd Ave Deli would take over this space or something similar

    10. Ana says:

      Artie’s had the best fries. I miss stopping in on Sundays for brunch with my son.

    11. Tim Butler says:

      Your headline would seem to be a reference to Artie’s Artery, a fictitious music club from the movie Buckaroo Banzai. If this is the case, you have my undying admiration.

    12. drg says:

      Its a double whammy.
      The extra outside enclosed space allows the landlord to deduct even more losses against his income, so he makes extra money from keeping the space vacant.

      BTW…. sarcasm alert.

    13. PedestrianJustice says:

      Another enclosed sidewalk cafe to watch is the one at the old Saffron Indian restaurant at 75th and Columbus.

      I think they closed in November 2017 and it’s still vacant. That two-year clock is ticking…

    14. BlingBling says:

      they should make it a bank!!
      or CVS or Duanne Reade!!!

      We don’t have enough of these.

    15. Keith says:

      The community board may not have enforcement power, but they should be able to persuade the appropriate authorities (DoB?)to force compliance. Isn’t the CB supposed to advocate for the community?

    16. William Sharfman says:

      Possibly we could all ask Helen Rosenthal why the landlord could not be pressured if not compelled to extinguish that obnoxious enclosed intrusion on public sidewalk space. I never thought it a reasonable installation in the first place, rather a usurpation of public space, and now there has long been no commercial reason for it, but it’s an eyesore as well as a pedestrian barrier. A consortium supporting a lawsuit to get the landlord to remove it might well be successful.

    17. DrM says:

      The endless, minuscule things readers here find to complain about never cease to amaze me. People. You live in NYC. It’s crowded. How has this escaped you? C’mon back Mrs. Maisel! Continue to make the rest of the world jealous of where we live!

    18. Sheldon Burke says:

      Two years is nothing! A restaurant called Chez Laurence was located on the southeast corner of Madison Ave. & East 38th St. and it closed over 25 years ago. The space has never been rented to another tenant and it’s still vacant.

      • Janet Hutter says:

        I’ve worked 2 blocks from this corner for about q0 years and have often wondered about this.

    19. Pedestrian says:

      Sadly Community Boards are impotent. Kept hamstrung by dismissive mayors and dismissed by agencies as obstacles. The Mayor has made it clear that he doesn’t cRe what CBs say. He has managed to enact Charter Revision that will lint their ability to effect change and protect neighborhoods within their jurisdictions and allow the well resources developers to run rough shod over residents. Failure to enforce sidewalk cafe regulations are just one example of this situation.

      Against this despressing back drop CB7 under the chair Roberta Semer has persevered on many fronts including supertalls to pressure sometimes disinterested electeds to listen to taxpayers and residents. We all need to support our CBs and tell our City Council members that CBs need more power and respect and they need it now.

    20. Regina says:

      Speaking of scaffolding, HiLife has been under a scaffold for FIVE years and Sofia Storage is still not removing it though they are the reason for the structure existing. Why is that? Are there no time limits for scaffolding? They are a blight on our neighborhood. Please advise.