City Planning Commission OKs Excess St. Vincent’s Parking

A rendering of the Rudin family plans for new condos at the site of St. Vincent's Hospital. Rudin wants to include 152 parking spaces, while the community board wants zero. Image: Rudin via WSJ.

The City Planning Commission approved a Rudin family request to build 50 percent more parking than allowed at the site of the former St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village. The commission’s unanimous approval came last Monday despite opposition to the parking garage from the local community board and evidence that Rudin hadn’t met the city’s own requirements for granting exemptions to parking maximums.

The advisory recommendations supposedly guiding the commission had been split over the garage. Community Board 2 urged that no garage be allowed at all, as the entrance would be the fourth on a single residential block of West 12th Street. Borough President Scott Stringer, however, approved of the Rudin request to build 152 parking spaces, rather than the 98 the developers would be allowed under the city’s parking maximums.

Additionally, the commission’s report suggests that all community members who testified on the issue of the parking garage at its public hearing opposed the extra parking spaces. “A number of speakers in opposition stated a concern for the proposed garage on 12th Street,” reads the report [PDF]. “These speakers said that the requested special permit to increase the size of the garage should be denied.”

Regardless of those recommendations, it’s debatable whether Rudin was even eligible for a special permit to exceed the parking maximums. To get such a permit, developers need to show that there isn’t enough available parking in the area to meet the projected demand from project residents.

Calculations performed by both Streetsblog and the Municipal Art Society show that wasn’t the case in the Village. “When the residential units are expected to be built there will be 740 available overnight spaces and 154 available weekday midday spaces within a quarter mile radius of the site,” wrote MAS in testimony submitted to the City Planning Commission [PDF]. “This is more than enough spaces to accommodate the 137 cars that the applicant is estimating will result from the addition of 450 new housing units.”

The commission, like Rudin, argues that many of the nearby spaces shouldn’t count, since they are “accessory” parking spaces not necessarily available to residents of the Rudin development. Surveys of the lots by both Streetsblog and MAS, however, both showed that those lots are overwhelmingly being rented to the general public.

The Rudin proposal now goes to the City Council. Christine Quinn, as both the local council member and the speaker, should have significant influence over the council’s decision.

As part of its plan to revise the parking regulations for the Manhattan core, which includes the Village, the Department of City Planning proposes tightening up the loopholes that allow so many special permits to exceed parking maximums. The granting of a special permit for the St. Vincent’s project shows how broken the current system is.