Good morning. It’s Friday. We’ll look at Mayor Eric Adams’s assault on those outdoor restaurant sheds that have become eyesores. We’ll also meet the artist commissioned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art to do an installation around an escalator.
Credit…Holly Pickett for The New York Times
Mayor Eric Adams put on a hard hat, grabbed a sledgehammer and took a swing. He connected with a waist-hight wall that easily gave way. It was the kind of Twitter-ready photo op that he relishes.
The target was an abandoned restaurant shed on West 32nd Street in Manhattan. The restaurant that put up the shed during the pandemic did not take it down when it closed. The mayor said the city would do the demolition, starting with more than 20 “neglected sheds” like the one he was standing in front of.
Adams defended outdoor dining — “it saved 100,000 jobs” in the restaurant industry during the pandemic, he said — and said that it should be a permanent part of city life. “What I want to say, loud and clear, as much as I can have a hand in it, is outdoor dining is here to stay,” he said.
But he called the “blight and disorder” at some sheds “unacceptable” and promised that a new task force would work to see that outdoor dining was “safe, clean and respectable.” He said the task force would be led by two city departments — transportation and sanitation — with assistance from the police. Officials said the Department of Parks and Recreation had assisted with an initial blitz on problem streeteries.
Outdoor dining “can’t be a safe haven for rats,” Adams said. “It can’t be a safe haven for illegal behavior.” And, when asked what complaints he had heard about sheds, he mentioned another problem. “I have a New York nose,” he said, “and listen, someone has used this as a urinal because I can clearly smell it.”
Officials said that abandoned outdoor restaurant structures represented a small fraction of the 13,000 restaurants that had taken part in the Open Restaurants program. Deputy Mayor Meera Joshi said the city was also targeting sheds with “egregious violations,” including blocking access for the Fire Department. “We have dozens of sheds that fall in that category,” she said. And opponents have gone to court over City Hall’s push to make dining sheds permanent.
In eight months in office, Adams has developed a reputation as a nightlife-loving mayor, an idea he brought up on Thursday.
“There’s an entire industry from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. and everything in between,” he said, “and I think for far too long, leaders of the city have only acknowledged that 9-to-5 operation. I don’t believe that. I see throughout the night how we are a thriving city. In fact, if we close down at 5 p.m., we should be Portland. We’re not Portland. We’re New York. We keep it going — the city that never sleeps. In fact, we don’t even take a nap.”
Adams did not specify which Portland he was thinking of. In Portland, Maine, where bars and restaurants can stay open until 1 a.m., “you might want to reference the fact that if you walked around our old port now, you’ll find a lot of New York plates,” said Jessica Grondin, the city’s communications director. “I’m just saying. All in good fun, of course.”
She said she sympathized with the problems restaurants have had. “It’s been a hard two years for an industry, with all they have to manage and the slim profit margins that they have,” she said, adding that Portland’s City Council had approved regulations to expand outdoor dining.
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The well-decorated escalator
The Taiwanese painter and conceptual artist Michael Lin was excited when the Metropolitan Museum of Art said it wanted to commission him to do an installation. “I was thinking, ‘Oh, great, we’re going to do something on the facade,’” he said. After all, the Met has commissioned sculptures to go in the niches between the tall columns flanking the main entrance on Fifth Avenue.
That wasn’t what the Met had in mind.
Joseph Scheier-Dolberg, the Met’s associate curator of Chinese paintings, told Lin it was the Met’s first commission involving an escalator, and the Met already had the escalator. It was around the corner from the Great Hall, essentially the Met’s main lobby. The museum wanted him to do something with the narrow, bland space around the escalator.
Lin’s hopes fell, and then he went to work. The escalator, not far from the grand staircase leading to the second floor, “was pretty underwhelming,” Lin said. “I mean, it was a pretty drab space.”
He created an installation called “Pentachrome” with wall panels on either side of the escalator. “It’s the first work I’ve made that you can ride through,” Lin said.
The panels he installed reach to the ceiling. They draw on motifs from two Qing-dynasty-style vases he found in the Met’s collection, with magnolias, hydrangeas and tree peonies on one side and magpies and plum blossoms on the other. “You’re kind of climbing the tree as you go up,” he said.
Scheier-Dolberg said that basing the installation on Asian art and especially Chinese ceramics was appropriate because they have long been displayed on the second-floor balcony of the Great Hall, where the escalator takes its riders. But Scheier-Dolberg said there were practical considerations that posed challenges to the project. The installation “couldn’t have something that required a narrative element that would force you to pause midride,” Scheier-Dolberg said. That could cause a passenger pileup on a landing halfway up.
There was also the speed of the escalator. “I kept thinking, ‘Wow, this is going too fast — can we kind of slow it down?’” Lin said. Unfortunately, he and Scheier-Dolberg said, the answer was no. The escalator runs at only one speed.
The Met says the installation complements the Chinese ceramics on the balcony, which have long added color to the cool stone surfaces of the walls and floors at the Met. The installation has “completely transformed the Great Hall escalator,” Max Hollein, the Met’s director, said. ““It no longer feels like a dreary trek through a D.M.V. office.”
On a hot summer morning, I squeezed in next to a woman on the B train, opened my book and tapped off my earbuds. The book required attention.
I could hear my seatmate singing. Normally this would annoy me, but I soon realized the woman had a pretty voice. I resisted the urge to react and kept reading instead.
When we got to my stop, I got up and turned to look at her. She was smiling.
“Excuse me,” she said.
“Yes,” I replied. In all honesty, I was expecting her to compliment me on my dress, one I wear often.
“What is the name of your book?”
I was taken aback.
“The Anomaly,” I said. “It’s really good.”
“I know,” she said, “I read a page over your shoulder.”
— Vanessa Spray
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you on Monday. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].