Principal Andre Soluri Testifies at New York City Council Hearing on Outdoor Dining

February 8, 2022

At today’s New York City Council hearing, SA principal Andre Soluri testified in support of proposed zoning amendments that begins the process of creating a permanent outdoor dining program.

In his testimony, Andre agrees states how many of the challenges and problems being highlighted by others testimony can be easily fixed through a combination of “…good design, clear yet flexible guidelines, and increased consistent enforcement.” He then goes on to outline the work being done by the Alfresco Coalition to advise the city on guidelines for the permanent program which include a series workshops hosted by AIANY that’s bringing together architects to tackle the challenges through design and to develop a series of prototypes that provide solutions and show the potential of the program.

Below is a video of Andre’s two minute testimony in full:

Below is the full text from Andre’s testimony:

“Good afternoon. My name is Andre Soluri and I am a licensed architect, longtime Manhattan resident, member of the American Institute of Architects New York, the principal of Soluri Architecture and a co-founder of the Design Corps which is a platform where 70 NY architects have volunteered to help 90 restaurants design compliant outdoor dining. Today I am testifying in a personal capacity, and a more detailed version of this is in my Op-Ed published in today’s Daily News.

Opportunities to transform our city’s streets in a positive and equitable way don’t happen very often, but the zoning changes you are considering is one of those rare moments.

Many criticisms about Open Restaurants are valid, and I agree with most, however most can also be easily resolved through good design, clear yet flexible guidelines, and increased consistent enforcement.

While outdoor dining structures may appear simple, each involves hundreds of design decisions that greatly impact a design’s success or failure and how positively or negatively the surrounding community is impacted. This is why It’s crucial for a permanent program to have clear flexible guidelines, review applications before they are built and for DOT to have resources to properly enforce requirements.

Good design is not easy and it doesn’t just happen by itself.

The complaints you are hearing prove this, but there’s an army of New York architects, designers and community groups who have been mobilized by the Al Fresco Coalition, to find the best, most equitable ideas for a permanent program while addressing it’s challenges and potential.

With help from the Design Corps and AIA, we are crafting recommendations to the city through a series of policy roundtables that we hope will become the program’s guidelines while also convening competitions and workshops led by architects to propose design solutions that mitigate these challenges.

Our goal is to assemble best practices and case studies, while also proposing a series of prototypes.

I ask City Council to approve this zoning change and give our group a chance to demonstrate what a well-designed and equitable program could looks like.”

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