Dillon Moran: the New Czar of Outdoor Dining

During the worst of the COVID crisis, the New York State Liquor Authority eased its restrictions to allow restaurants to add outdoor dining. Saratoga Springs amended the city code to authorize a committee made up of the Battalion Chief of the Fire Department, the Director of Risk and Safety, the City Attorney, and the Department of Public Works Business Manager to oversee the temporary expansion of restaurant dining into areas that are the public property of the city (sidewalks, streets, etc.).

Accounts Commissioner Dillon Moran has put a resolution on the agenda for the Tuesday, March 1, 2022, City Council meeting which would eliminate that committee and instead give him sole authority to control eating and drinking establishments’ expansion on to city land.

Forget Transparency

Moran’s plan to take over this process only became public on Friday night when the pre-agenda was posted on the city’s website as is required by city procedure.

When I saw this proposal, I began calling around for reactions. It became regrettably clear that none of the principal players in city government, let alone the public, had any idea this was in the works. To say that people were upset when they learned of Moran’s proposal would be an understatement.

It Just Ain’t That Simple

In his campaign, Commissioner Moran promised to “streamline” the process for the permitting of outdoor dining in the city. Commissioner Moran seems disturbingly unconcerned, however, about the logistical and safety concerns that need to be addressed in this process, let alone issues that may arise with the New York State Liquor Authority with licensing requirements

It is particularly troubling that in January he announced on a WNYT newscast that he planned to block off certain downtown streets on Thursday through Sunday nights, May to September, without first consulting with the Public Safety and Public Works Departments as to the feasibility of this plan. It should be noted that Moran does not have the authority to shut down city streets or to make them one way.

Look, I am all for making our city as vibrant and as tourist friendly as possible but to do so effectively means recognizing the complexity of designing and executing a successful plan including taking into consideration the effects the plan may have on the adjacent retail businesses. It also involves recognizing that this cannot succeed as a one man show but rather success depends on being able to work cooperatively with other departments and individuals.

Moran’s ham-fisted push for total control may very possibly have the opposite effect of streamlining change. Announcing that you are “in charge” when you lack the true authority to implement something as major as redesigning downtown streets may create major obstacles rather than overcome them.

3 thoughts on “Dillon Moran: the New Czar of Outdoor Dining”

  1. My friend Jim Martinez had trouble posting this comment:

    As of February 10, Governor Hochul announced a lifting of mask or vaccine requirements as optional for businesses, local governments, and counties to enforce. Wouldn’t that have a direct result on advancing last year’s street narrowing and dining options? Isn’t the closing of public streets for the benefit of some restaurants a taking and a gifting by the city for select businesses? Doubling one’s leased space should have some assessment responses, no different than adding a seasonal dining patio or balcony on a property where other establishments find that option less feasible.

    Last year, a move was made to place Jersey barriers on narrow roadways without provisions for lighting or signage of these roadway impediments till after being informed by a resident 4 months into their placement of established guidelines in other NYS communities. The PS Commissioner was forwarded the NYC regulations (https://www1.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/pedestrians/openrestaurants.shtml)

    for restaurant barriers that resulted in this city’s arguably minimal reflective red tape strips. Are those strips defendable? Is DOT notified of these narrow streets and closings? Does Google maps for GPS guidance get a heads up? Are city residents permitted feedback regarding closing of public city streets and rights-of-way?

    I would agree John, that the committee empowered with oversight for such dramatic changes be convened for their oversight. If the idea to make some real estate more attractive by gifting square footage over others than I might think the real estate committee and the Assessor review how best to both tax and compensate those less fortunate for plot or rental locations.

    Like

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