Suzaan Hauptfleisch fears for the future of her employees after the Department of Transportation ordered her to dismantle her outdoor dining shed last week.
“I was angry because we’re very beloved in the neighborhood and we’re busy," said Hauptfleisch. "But I have staff to support and they’ve been with me through COVID and I didn’t lay anyone off and what do I tell them?”
Hauptfleisch opened Kaia Wine Bar on the Upper East Side in 2011. She said the DOT alerted her about six weeks ago that her dining shed — which seated 30 people — must be removed before July 16 so they can start construction on the new Third Avenue bike lane. But without those 30 seats, she may have to lay off employees or at least reduce their hours.
“We welcome it, but why didn’t you involve businesses in creative ideas to roll it out in such a way where it doesn’t affect the businesses," said Hauptfleisch.
Construction has already begun on the DOT’s so-called “complete redesign” of Third Avenue between 59th and 96th streets, which will go from five traffic lanes to three. The other two will transform into a bus-only lane and a parking-protected bike lane.
The DOT said the plan prioritizes safety along the 37-block stretch where six pedestrians and one cyclist were killed since 2016.
This new bike lane will be a lot more spacious than others in the city, measuring at nine feet wide with a three-foot buffer. Meanwhile, the new camera-enforced bus lane will aim to speed buses up on Third Avenue where they currently travel much slower than the city average.
The DOT also plans to install pedestrian islands, left-turn only signalized lanes and two rest stops for delivery workers.
The DOT told Hauptfleisch that this is only temporary and that she’ll be able to reapply for a new dining shed when construction is complete. But she said she’s skeptical and disheartened.
“No timeline as to when it’s going to be done," Hauptfleisch said. "No creative thought how to help businesses, no response [as to] how they could help us. And it’s not even about the money, it’s the fact that they didn’t invite us to the community boards for us to talk about it.”
The DOT is considering completing all of Third Avenue, but for now the focus is on this 1.9-mile stretch on the Upper East Side. Construction on the Third Avenue redesign is expected to continue through the rest of this year.