Times Architecture Critic Calls For Eliminating NYC Parking Minimums

Times critic Michael Kimmelman and NYC Planning Director Amanda Burden on a walking tour of the South Bronx last year. Image: NYT

The fight to eliminate parking minimums in New York City just went mainstream.

As part of a wide-ranging exploration of parking lots and public space set to run in Sunday’s paper, New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman signed on to the growing list of people urging New York City’s Department of City Planning to scrap the costly and outdated requirements that force new developments in most of the city to include parking. The whole article is well worth a read, but here’s Kimmelman’s NYC-specific recommendation:

For big cities like New York it is high time to abandon outmoded zoning codes from the auto-boom days requiring specific ratios of parking spaces per housing unit, or per square foot of retail space. These rules about minimum parking spaces have driven up the costs of apartments for developers and residents, damaged the environment, diverted money that could have gone to mass transit and created a government-mandated cityscape that’s largely unused. We keep adding to the glut of parking lots. Crain’s recently reported on the largely empty garages at new buildings like Avalon Fort Greene, a 42-story luxury tower near downtown Brooklyn, and 80 DeKalb Avenue, up the block, both well occupied, both of which built hundreds of parking spaces to woo tenants. Garages near Yankee Stadium, built over the objections of Bronx neighbors appalled at losing parkland for yet more parking lots, turn out never to be more than 60 percent full, even on game days. The city has lost public space, the developers have lost a fortune.

Kimmelman hits the nail on the head, noting that the parking requirements are an environmental disaster in America’s most car-free city, an obstacle to the construction of badly-needed housing, and often incompatible with good urban design. In calling for the outright elimination of parking minimums, Kimmelman goes far beyond the reforms being hinted at by DCP. Right now, DCP is only considering a reduction in parking minimums and only in a few neighborhoods near the Manhattan core. No actual proposal to cut the “inner ring” parking requirements has been released, though DCP has proposed eliminating parking minimums for affordable housing in the Manhattan core.

Kimmelman’s endorsement should carry weight at DCP, however. DCP director Amanda Burden prides herself on her commitment to urban design and she took Kimmelman on a tour of the South Bronx for his inaugural article as architecture critic. If anyone can persuade Burden to act boldly, it might be him.