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Posts from the "NYCEDC" Category

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Weisbrod and Kimball Tie Their Own Hands on Parking Reform

Reducing the amount of parking in new development promises to make housing more affordable and curb traffic congestion, but it hasn’t gained much traction in Bill de Blasio’s first months at City Hall, despite the mayor’s ambitious promises to ease the housing crunch. Today, two top city officials explained why, unlike their counterparts in more car-dependent cities, New York’s leaders are suggesting only the meekest changes to off-street parking policy.

City Planning Commission Chair Carl Weisbrod and EDC President Kyle Kimball. Photos: DCP and EDC

City Planning Commission Chair Carl Weisbrod and EDC President Kyle Kimball. Photos: DCP and EDC

The mayor’s housing plan recommends lower parking requirements for affordable housing near transit, senior housing, and commercial development that also includes residential units. At a Municipal Art Society forum this morning, Planning Director Carl Weisbrod highlighted these reforms as one of the ways the mayor’s housing plan aims to reduce the cost of construction — but only in places where car ownership is very low.

“Other areas have to be examined more carefully,” Weisbrod said after the event. “What we’re looking at is how we can appropriately reduce the cost of construction while not having a significant — or any — impact on the quality of life in neighborhoods.”

This outlook matches the philosophy of DCP’s nascent parking plan for “inner ring” neighborhoods, which lists “maintaining an adequate supply of residential parking for people who choose to own a vehicle” among its ”quality of life” goals. The result: DCP tries to tailor the city’s parking regulations to local car ownership rates, rather than using parking policy as a tool to make housing more affordable and reduce traffic.

DCP isn’t the only place where the tail wags the parking policy dog. If anything, things are worse at the Economic Development Corporation.

EDC President Kyle Kimball said he follows Streetsblog and that while he supports our policy angle, he takes issue with how we’ve reported about EDC projects. “[EDC] never had a policy of incentivizing parking as an economic development strategy,” he said. “Actually, at the end of the day it ends up costing the city. Developers don’t want to build parking, either.”

Yet EDC’s projects often include massive amounts of parking. At Yankee Stadium, EDC arranged public financing for 9,000 mostly-empty parking spaces whose operator defaulted on tax-exempt bonds. “The Bronx parking situation was one where they put in the right amount of parking at the time, given what they thought and what the Yankees were willing to pay for,” Kimball said of the subsidized project.

To hear Kimball tell it, the parking was done in by an over-performing train station. “There has turned out to be more commuting from that Metro-North station than the EIS anticipated,” he said. “So do I think it was a mistake to build the parking? No. Do I think the EIS could have been done differently? Yes.”

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West Side Project Calls For 400-500 Parking Spots. Would EDC Want More?

Developer TF Cornerstone has begun the process of getting rezonings and special permits from the City Planning Commission for its residential and retail project on 11th Avenue and 57th Street, which would replace a string of auto dealerships and a 1,000-space parking garage with a new project containing either 395 or 500 parking spaces, depending on the retail tenants.

This project will cut the number of parking spaces currently on site by at least half. If EDC were in charge, parking would likely increase. Image: TF Cornerstone

TF Cornerstone’s project — 1,189 apartments plus 42,000 square feet of retail that may or may not include car dealerships — would be a step up for the site, but whether the garage has 500 or 395 spaces, it would still be more than what’s allowed under the city’s Manhattan Core parking regulations, which cap by-right “accessory parking” for mixed-use projects at 225 spaces. Even that cap, well below the proposed 500 or 395-space garage, is still higher than peak parking demand estimated in the project’s draft environmental impact statement — 150 spaces.

What’s notable about the project is that it approaches parking differently than city-led developments: It would probably look a lot worse if the Economic Development Corporation were in charge. The city’s economic development arm regularly compels developers to preserve any parking that already exists at a given site and increase the parking supply beyond what zoning normally allows or requires.

Even if TF Cornerstone gets a special permit for its garage and builds by-right accessory parking on top of that, the combined 725 spaces would still fall below what’s currently on site. That’s something EDC simply doesn’t do in most of its development projects.

At the Lower East Side’s Essex Crossing development, formerly known as the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, EDC got a special permit for a 500-space public parking garage, exceeding the project’s estimated demand for parking, the caps written into the zoning code, and the number of parking spaces already on the site.

At Flushing Commons, zoning mandated 700 spaces, but EDC made sure the project included 1,600 spaces – more than double the requirement – in an effort to replace existing on-site parking. EDC is pretty explicit about its desire to never eliminate a parking space: For a project in Harlem that would replace an under-capacity garage, it told developers to “maintain as many parking spaces as possible.” EDC declined to comment on the TF Cornerstone project.

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Feds Reject All Three NYC Applications for Latest Round of TIGER Grants

Without a TIGER grant, New Yorkers will have to wait a little longer for the next phase of the Bronx River Greenway (in red). Map: Bronx River Alliance

This morning, U.S. DOT announced the winners in the latest round of its highly-competitive TIGER grant program. While upstate New York won grants for two projects — a highway teardown in Rochester and a complete streets project in Olean — New York City missed out, with applications for ferry improvements, a greenway connection in the Bronx, and the redesign of a busy intersection in Downtown Brooklyn failing to make the cut.

DOT had applied for funding to implement the Brooklyn Bridge Gateway project, a long-anticipated reconstruction of the intersection of Tillary Street and Adams Street that would dramatically improve cyclist and pedestrian access to the Brooklyn Bridge. DOT, which had unsuccessfully submitted the partially-funded project for earlier rounds of TIGER funding before trying again this year, told Streetsblog it was looking at other federal funding sources to fill the gap.

The Parks Department applied for $27.5 million from TIGER to match $10 million in city funds for the completion a section of the Bronx River Greenway between Starlight Park and Concrete Plant Park. The Bronx project includes three bridges — two over the Bronx River and one over the adjacent Amtrak corridor. The project, delayed by negotiations over the Amtrak bridge, saw state funds dedicated to its construction expire in 2009.

A third application, from EDC, would have been dedicated to ferry infrastructure. Streetsblog has inquired with Parks and EDC to see how they plan to fund their projects without TIGER; we’ll let you know if we hear anything back.

New York City has previously won TIGER grants for Hunts Point freight rail infrastructure, Moynihan Station, the city’s Sheridan Expressway study, and the redesign of Fordham Plaza.

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Don’t Ask Seth Pinsky About NYCEDC Parking Development

“The worst thing we could do is create projects that create a parking need and then not provide that parking.”

Seth Pinsky. Photo: NYCEDC

That was Seth Pinsky, former head of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, in 2010. True to that philosophy, during his tenure NYCEDC incentivized and financed suburban-style parking in development projects in neighborhoods across the city, ensuring that local residents will be dealing with resulting motor vehicle traffic for years to come.

Having recently departed NYCEDC for the private sector, Pinsky sat for an interview with Nancy Scola at Next City. It’s a wide-ranging piece, and well worth a read.

Here’s Pinsky on NYCEDC and parking:

NC: What do you make of the critique that NYCEDC has focused on big development projects with a ton of parking, not necessarily places that people can walk to and that are well-integrated into the fabric of street life?

Pinsky: It’s a critique that in no way reflects the reality of the record. The fact is, if you look at the major development projects that the city has undertaken under Mayor Bloomberg, whether it’s in neighborhoods like Willets Point or Coney Island or St. George in Staten Island or Hudson Yards, the city has either developed these projects around excellent public transportation access or [has] actually invested in the public transportation that will be necessary to allow people to commute. Anyone who thinks that this has not been a public transit-friendly administration is either blind to reality or has some sort of alternative agenda to push.

Note that Pinsky avoids answering for the thousands of parking spaces that EDC under his watch shoehorned into neighborhoods that do, in fact, have excellent transit. Though he is asked explicitly about EDC parking development — once a point of pride for Pinsky — he never even says the word.

It’s true that NYCEDC’s record over the last several years speaks for itself. Even if Pinsky now won’t acknowledge it.

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NYC’s Top Parking Subsidizer, Seth Pinsky, Moves On

Seth Pinsky, whose legacy as head of the New York City Economic Development Corporation will be years of parking-induced traffic in city neighborhoods, with taxpayers footing the bill, is headed to the private sector.

Seth Pinsky. Photo: NYCEDC

The news came this morning, via announcements from City Hall and RXR Realty, which hired Pinsky.

During Pinsky’s five-year tenure, NYCEDC incentivized and financed the inclusion of suburban-style parking in development projects across the city, from Flushing to the Lower East Side, Downtown Brooklyn to Staten Island. The ethos that prioritized parking and attendant motor vehicle traffic for some of the densest neighborhoods in the most transit-rich city in America was summed up in a statement from Pinsky himself.

“The worst thing we could do,” Pinsky told Streetsblog in 2010, “is create projects that create a parking need and then not provide that parking.”

Outdated environmental review regulations factored into some of EDC’s parking-saturated developments. But there are plenty of examples of EDC-sponsored projects, large and small, that were the product of an autocentric mindset and plain old political patronage. To name a few:

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Anybody Interested in Tearing Down a Couple of Yankee Stadium Garages?

Another attempt to salvage something positive from the Yankee Stadium parking boondoggle is underway. The company that operates the garages, having defaulted on hundreds of millions in triple-tax exempt bonds, has issued a request for proposals for the sublease and redevelopment of two lots.

Even back in 2007 and 2008, when the NYC Economic Development Corporation (via the Industrial Development Agency) closed the deal before an economic feasibility study could be completed, and Albany authorized the seizure of public parkland, the writing was on the wall. Other than the EDC, the Yankees, and the Bronx Parking Development Company, most anyone could see that a new stadium with fewer seats, a new Metro-North station, and acres of existing (EDC-financed) parking nearby wouldn’t need 2,000 more parking spaces than Tropicana Field.

Yet here we are: a 9,000-spot parking complex that’s at 38 percent capacity on game days, and all but empty in the off-season. According to the city’s Independent Budget Office, Bronx Parking missed its April payment to bondholders, and the company has yet to pay the city a cent in rent or payments in lieu of taxes. City and state taxpayers are at the back of the line, since the deal was structured so bondholders are paid first.

Responses to the RFP were due June 5, according to the IBO. A 2011 request for expressions of interest to develop a hotel to complement or replace the garages fell through when all potential developers wanted — you guessed it — subsidies from the city. And Neil deMause reports on Field of Schemes that the sites proffered in the RFP aren’t big enough to accommodate a Major League Soccer facility — though the Queens Chronicle notes that a new soccer arena near Yankee Stadium would satisfy the MLS’s “close to mass transit” requirement.

Even if MLS takes an interest in redeveloping the Yankee Stadium garages, residents of the South Bronx still lost their parkland, and taxpayers may not be off the hook. To build a new stadium in the city, deMause reports, MLS is seeking an estimated $100 million in subsidies.

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How Many Parking Spots Will Developers Build at Transit-Rich EDC Site?

Since being cleared for redevelopment in 1967, several city blocks at the base of the Williamsburg Bridge on the Lower East Side — known as the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, or SPURA — have lain fallow. For decades, the largest undeveloped, city-owned land below 96th Street was used only for surface parking lots. After years of planning work, this afternoon marked the deadline for developers to submit bids for the site to the New York City Economic Development Corporation.

This afternoon was the deadline for developers to submit bids for a huge Lower East Side redevelopment project. Per EDC's request, developers will be allowed to build up to 500 parking spaces. Image: EDC

With today’s milestone, it’s worth remembering how EDC’s plan to transform the SPURA parking lots still encourages developers to build more parking than would otherwise be allowed.

The SPURA project, sitting atop four subway lines, includes 1,000 new housing units, half of which would be designated as “permanently affordable,” new commercial uses, and an expansion of the Essex Street Market. Under the city’s parking maximums, which have limited the addition of parking in much of Manhattan since 1982, no more than 345 parking spaces would be allowed. Those “accessory” spaces are meant for use by building tenants. The project’s own environmental impact statement estimates that the project’s maximum demand for parking would be only 257 spaces.

But EDC has received a special permit enabling up to 500 public parking spots at the SPURA development. And the agency told Streetsblog last year that it wants to replace every one of the approximately 400 parking spaces currently on site. As with its other development projects, EDC is apparently unwilling to let this site become a more urban place with less parking than exists today.

“The worst thing we could do,” EDC President Seth Pinsky told Streetsblog in 2010, “is create projects that create a parking need and then not provide that parking.”

Meanwhile, the Department of City Planning is approaching the finish line with its proposal to amend the rules governing off-street parking in Manhattan below East 96th Street and West 110th Street.

The plan, which contains many positive changes, such as eliminating parking requirements for affordable housing and retroactively applying stricter parking regulations to pre-1982 development, also contains some potential pitfalls. For example, it may make it easier for developers to obtain special permits to build public parking garages that exceed parking maximums – the process that EDC has exploited to cram up to 500 parking spots into the SPURA project.

The Manhattan Core parking policy change was approved by the City Council’s Land Use Committee last week, 16-0, with one abstention (Jessica Lappin). Next it goes before the full City Council, followed by a signature from Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

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At EDC’s S.I. Mega-Project, Developer to Build “Every Possible Bit of Parking”

While some coastal areas in Staten Island cope with the devastation of Sandy, the city is moving ahead with a public meeting tonight about a parking-saturated mega-development for the north end of the island. According to one developer, the project will include “every possible bit of parking” that can be built there. At the same time, the developers will contribute nothing to improve surface transit to the site, even though it is located in the most transit-accessible part of Staten Island and the MTA is planning a new busway that will directly serve the area.

Lots of parking at a transit-accessible, city-led development project? NYC has been on this ride before. Rendering: SHoP Architects

The city’s proposal to build a 1.46 million square-foot regional shopping, entertainment, and hotel complex in St. George would concentrate development in a transit-accessible location and improve pedestrian connections between Richmond Terrace and the waterfront. But these benefits stand to be overshadowed by a huge amount of parking — 2,200 spaces — that will disrupt the pedestrian environment and attract street-clogging car trips.

The project will include between 50 and 125 retailers, a 200-room hotel, waterfront restaurants, a banquet facility, and — who could forget? — the world’s largest ferris wheel.

Today, the site has 1,606 parking spaces, according to the New York City Economic Development Corporation: a 230-space EDC lot southeast of the Staten Island Yankees stadium, two DOT commuter lots totaling 556 spaces at the Staten Island Ferry terminal and an 820-space EDC lot northwest of the ballpark. The complex as currently proposed would include 2,200 parking spaces, which is intended not only for visitors to the new development but also Staten Island Yankees fans and ferry riders, according to EDC.

“All the parking spaces that were removed for these developments will be replaced, and then some,” Mayor Bloomberg said at the press conference announcing the development.

“We’re kind of hoping that demands at certain hours of the day will offset each other,” Joe Ferrara of project developer BFC Partners told the Staten Island Advance. Streetsblog reached out to BFC for more information but has not received a reply. A three-level garage on the “south site” (the retail-hotel complex near the ferry terminal) will have 1,250 spaces, while 950 (plus 20 spaces for buses) will be in a garage on the “north site,” which will have additional retail and restaurant space and the New York Wheel.

When asked why 950 spaces are planned for the north site, Richard A. Marin, president and CEO of New York Wheel, LLC, told Streetsblog, “We’re at 950 because that’s basically what we can fit into the space that we have” without obstructing the views of nearby residents. “It’s not because of any programmatic things that we’re doing,” he said. “We literally are putting every possible bit of parking on that spot that we can.”

The project’s north site is seeking LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council to be designated as one of the nation’s most environmentally-friendly new buildings.

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For Bloomberg, No Lessons Learned From Yankee Parking Subsidies

If Mayor Bloomberg regrets his administration’s involvement in the Yankee Stadium parking disaster, he’s not letting on.

The Bronx Parking Development Company has finally defaulted on $237 million in triple-tax exempt bonds used to finance parking garages for the new stadium, and bondholders are looking for a way to recoup their losses.

It didn't work. Photo: Daily News

“There just wasn’t the business there that the owners, who made the investment, thought that there was going to be,” Bloomberg told Transportation Nation yesterday. “If the owners of the parking garage can’t make money, that’s sad. We’ve got to find a way to help them.”

See what the mayor did there? In one shot he ducked responsibility for his role in the deal and characterized the developers as hapless victims. The developers who were handed tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds and acres of public park land to build thousands of parking spaces that the stadium’s neighbors didn’t want, and that everyone — other than the developers, the Yankees and the city — recognized were unnecessary.

The Daily News reported on Tuesday that the New York City Economic Development Corporation tried to broker a deal to “bail out” BPDC and redevelop two stadium parking lots with affordable housing and retail, but talks fell through for reasons the EDC would not divulge. The Industrial Development Agency, the financing arm of the EDC, facilitated the stadium garage deal and approved the bonds.

Half of the members of the IDA board were appointed by Bloomberg, either directly or through ex officio memberships, at the time the bonds were approved. The IDA signed off on the bonds before an economic feasibility study could be completed.

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Yankee Stadium Parking Garages “Almost Certainly” Coming Down

How long now before the Yankee Stadium parking fiasco becomes an unpleasant memory?

The site of one Yankee Stadium garage, at River Avenue and 153rd Street, was proposed for redevelopment as a hotel and conference center in 2011. Photo: BOEDC

In a brief Crain’s item published last Friday (hat tip to Tri-State), Marlene Cintron, president of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, said that occupancy rates at the taxpayer-financed stadium garages are down from last year, and now stand below 50 percent.

The Bronx Parking Development Company is in default, as expected, according to Crain’s, and bondholders are weighing their options.

Seven companies responded to a request for information to build hotels on the garages, which Cintron said would almost certainly have to be torn down.

Though there were rumblings of repurposing or replacing some stadium parking over a year ago, this appears to be the first time a public official has publicly suggested that the garages could be erased completely.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., who has his predecessor Adolfo Carrion and the New York City Economic Development Corporation to thank for this mess, broached the idea of siting a hotel near the stadium in his 2010 State of the Borough address. Ironically, Daily News columnist Juan Gonzalez wrote last February that initial proposals were dismissed because developers insisted on “major city subsidies.” Diaz also reportedly asked the Bloomberg administration to replace “some of the garages” with low-income housing. This outcome seems unlikely, given that bondholders, unlike the EDC, expect a return on their investment.

Diaz spokesperson John DeSio told Streetsblog last year that whatever becomes of the garages, the next developer should learn from the city’s mistakes — the squandering of millions of dollars on parking that the neighborhood didn’t want, and the Yankees didn’t need; approving the deal before conducting an economic feasibility study, and so on. Regardless, given the sordid history of the stadium garages, residents of the South Bronx, and city and state taxpayers at large, would do well to keep their ears to the ground.