Land Use Board Approves UES' Mansion Restaurant Outdoor Cafe
After failing to sway Community Board 8's zonign committee, the restaurant won approval of the board's land use committee.
UPPER EAST SIDE, NY — An application for an outdoor cafe at popular Upper East Side diner Mansion Restaurant was given new life Wednesday night at Community Board 8's land use committee meeting.
The board's land use committee voted to approve the restaurant's application to rezone the northeast corner of York Avenue and East 86th Street to remove a restriction against outdoor cafes. The vote came about two weeks after the application failed to gain the support of Community Board 8's zoning committee by a margin of one vote.
If Mansion's application is approved by the city, the restaurant will apply to operate a a 23-table, 47-seat open-air cafe on the East 86th Street side of its business.
Third-generation owner John Philips told Patch that an outdoor cafe will help Mansion keep pace with the changes occurring in the Yorkville section of the Upper East Side. The cafe will both add capacity to the restaurant to accommodate residents of new buildings sprouting up in the area and also give longtime residents a new way to appreciate the restaurant, Philips said.
"Whether we like it or not [Yorkville] is changing," Philips said. "And so we have one of two options. You can either change in a way that is beneficial and gives back to the neighborhood or you know, try to rigidly hang on to this kind of backward facing view."
Philips added that he appreciates that some board members and local residents take a conservative approach to changing zoning laws, but an exception should be made for cases that will have a positive effect on the neighborhood. Over the past few years, Philips has refused multiple offers to buy his restaurant or the air rights on the property to preserve the history of his family's restaurant.
Existing zoning regulations prohibit most businesses from establishing outdoor seating on East 86th Street with a few exceptions. Critics of Mansion's application have described the effort as a "spot zoning" that could set a bad precedent for the Upper East Side and have argued that the restaurant's cafe will restrict walking space on the residential street.
If the city approves Mansions' request to rezone the corner of the block to strike restrictions on outdoor cafes the business will have to submit another application with Community Board 8 to approve the operation of the cafe. Philips told Patch that he's spoken with officials from the Department of City Planning who approve of the cafe, but that it's also important to him to get the community board's support.
Community Board 8's next full board meeting is scheduled for March 18.