Photo credit: Eden, Janine and Jim licnsed under CC BY 2.0

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, and Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition

Recognizing the difficulties restaurants faced during this horrific pandemic, New York City has provided increased outside dining spaces for these restaurants. Mayor Bill de Blasio has stated that “[t]he success of our neighborhood establishments is central to our entire city’s success.” Acknowledging that complaints will follow these outdoor dining activities, he set up an office to deal with potential complaints, Mediating Establishment and Neighbor Disputes (MEND NYC).

MEND NYC is overseen by the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings and the Mayor’s Office of Nightlife at the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. Undoubtedly, a major complaint brought to MEND NYC would center on the intrusions of loud sounds from these outdoor eating establishments on nearby residents. Even before the pandemic, complaints about noise from restaurants and bars came into 311 regularly. Now with more openings of these establishments, we can expect additional calls about noise. Let me add that other complaints, e.g. trash disposal, sidewalk obstruction, are also addressed through mediation.

I had written earlier about MEND NYC and was delighted to read the recent opinion piece by Joni Kletter and Ariel Palitz, who oversee the MEND NYC program, that provides us with an update. Their article tells us that forty conflicts have been mediated or scheduled for mediation and highlighted a dispute between a restaurant owner and a resident over sound that was successfully resolved.

Reading about this successful mediation on noise is comforting, and I am looking forward to a full report on the forty conflicts that were brought before MEND NYC. If indeed, as MEND NYC believes, that business owners want to get along with nearby residents, then a report reflecting successful resolutions would underscore the importance of communications between residents and business owners. Furthermore, MEND NYC would not simply be a program to ameliorate disputes between businesses and residents but one that will foster better relationships between the two.