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Queens BP Melinda Katz Prioritizes Parking Over Affordable Housing

Few things set off alarm bells for car-owning New Yorkers more than the thought of having less parking. So when the Department of City Planning proposed a minor reduction in parking requirements, the community board chairs of Queens got a case of road rage, with Borough President Melinda Katz at the wheel.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz thinks parking mandates are more important than Photo: MelindaKatz/Twitter

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz. Photo: MelindaKatz/Twitter

Here’s the problem: The city requires parking for most new development — a mandate that jacks up the cost of housing, even if residents don’t own cars. Senior citizens and low-income households, especially near transit, are less likely than other New Yorkers to own cars, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

As part of a package of reforms, DCP has proposed removing parking requirements for new senior and affordable housing developments within a half-mile of the subway, and to reduce or simplify them elsewhere.

This is a small step in the right direction, unless you’re a car-owning Queens community board chair. The crowd at Monday’s borough board meeting was apoplectic over the idea of eliminating some government parking mandates, reports the Queens Chronicle:

“Where are they going to go? This is crazy,” Community Board 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri Jr. said…

“I can’t think of any development in this borough where parking wasn’t an issue to some degree,” said Betty Braton, chairwoman of CB 10.

Joseph Hennessy, chairman of CB 6, added that many senior citizens still own cars and don’t get around using public transportation…

Dolores Orr — chairwoman of CB 14, which represents the Rockaways — said the agency was not looking at the “quality of public transportation” in the areas where it seeks to loosen the requirements…

Arcuri added that parking is already hard to find, a point echoed by several other board members.

“I can’t see anywhere in this borough where people would be supportive of downsizing parking requirements,” Braton said, according to the Forum.

They were joined in their opposition by Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, who heads the borough board and appoints community board members. She issued a statement after the meeting:

Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: WABC News SUV *PWNS* This Sidewalk Extension

Stay classy, channel 7. Photo: Stephen Miller

Stay classy, channel 7. Photo: Stephen Miller

New York City’s placard class — the elite few who park wherever they want, without consequence — obviously includes police and other public servants. But don’t forget the press.

This afternoon, two press SUVs, including one from WABC-TV, were parked on the sidewalk at the corner of Centre and Leonard in Lower Manhattan. The area, filled with courthouses and government offices, is rife with placard abuse from public employees and the press. The WABC SUV had press plates and, of course, there was no parking ticket on its windshield.

The same location in 2011, before the sidewalk extension was added and the parking lot in the background became part of Collect Pond Park. (Note the WABC van parked in the background.) Photo: Google Maps

The same location in 2011, before the sidewalk extension was added and the parking lot in the background became part of Collect Pond Park. (Note the WABC van parked in the background.) Photo: Google Maps

The corner where WABC parked its SUV used to be a marked crosswalk, with a slice left unpainted to squeeze in another (dubiously legal) parking spot. The corner was next to a surface parking lot.

In 2012, adjacent Collect Pond Park was completely reconstructed and expanded to replace the parking lot with green space. The project included new sidewalks and curb extensions, but even concrete appears to be no match for the “professional courtesy” that extends to all members of the placard class.

Streetsblog USA
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How to Repair a Parking Crater in Three Steps

Parkersburg, West Virginia, our second-place finisher in Parking Madness was parking guru Donald Shoup's top choice for worst parking crater.

Parkersburg, West Virginia, the runner-up in Parking Madness 2015, was Donald Shoup’s choice for worst parking crater.

[Before we started up the bracket for this year’s Parking Madness tournament, I got in touch with Donald Shoup, who literally wrote the book on parking reform, and asked him to pick the worst parking crater in the field of 16. Here’s his response, packaged with some advice for cities that have a parking crater problem. — Angie Schmitt]

All the entries deserve a prize, but I have to choose Parkersburg [above] as the worst crater, for several reasons. First, of course, is the city’s name. Second, Parkersburg has parking structures surrounded by surface parking lots. Third, parking lots separate the city from a beautiful river. And fourth, Elliott Lewis clearly explained why Parkersburg’s parking crater is so awful.

Other nominators also wrote superb indictments of their cities, including Marshall Allen for Syracuse, Bill Basford for Waterville, and Nick Sortland for Amarillo.

The upside of these obscene craters is that we have immense areas of vacant land ready for redevelopment right where people want to live and work. If cities remove their minimum parking requirements, these parking craters can become exciting parts of a healthy downtown. The four images below suggest the possible improvements.

This first photo shows an office building in San Jose, surrounded by all its required parking:

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 12.28.43 PM

The building is as big as the city will allow, given the number of parking spaces provided. Suppose San Jose removes its minimum parking requirements, so some empty spaces on the perimeter of the parking lot can be used for housing.

The below image illustrates the first stage of what could happen if cities un-require off-street parking requirements:

Read more…

Streetsblog USA
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Donald Shoup, an Appreciation

Donald Shoup at the 2011 launch of SFpark, which put his ideas about curbside parking management into practices at a large scale. Photo: Bryan Goebel

On Tuesday, the news came that after 41 years of teaching at UCLA, Donald Shoup, distinguished professor of urban planning, will retire. For all of us who have had our paths in life profoundly influenced by his research, writing, and teaching on parking and transportation, it’s a good time to reflect. I never got to take a class from professor Shoup, but he has had more influence on my life and career than any of the professors whose classes I did attend.

Back in the spring of 1992, I was a student at Stanford in Washington, DC, studying international development. I was beginning to realize that before I tried to go to someone else’s country and tell them how to improve their lives, I needed to learn a real practical skill and see if I could accomplish something at home, in a culture I actually understood. That same spring, an article appeared in the Washington Post — “Subsidies Support a Drive-to-Work Habit” — about the ways in which the federal tax code subsidizes parking while withholding tax benefits if people walk or bike or take transit. It piqued my interest.

Siegman

Patrick Siegman, a principal at Nelson/Nygaard, is known as “the first Shoupista” for his work implementing Shoup’s ideas.

I knew that a large and remarkably ugly parking structure had recently been built outside my dad’s office on the Stanford campus, and I knew that I could get a permit to park in it for about $6 per month. I wondered how much it cost, and who really paid for it.

When I got back to Stanford in the fall, I went to see my future boss, Julia Fremon, the manager of Stanford’s Office of Transportation Programs.  I asked her how much it cost to build and operate a parking space on campus, and who paid for them. She said, “I’ve been wanting to know that too.” Then she gave me a list of people to interview, and offered me a spot on the University’s Committee on Parking and Transportation. Encouraged by this, I went to Green Library, descended into the stacks, and discovered the writing of professor Shoup.

All that year, I devoured articles and monographs authored or co-authored by Donald Shoup. I still have my original dog-eared copies of all those articles on my office bookshelf, and I still reference them today, when I’m out in the world trying to persuade city planners and council members to think differently about transportation. There were all those great articles, some newly published: “Employer-Paid Parking: the Problem and Proposed Solutions,” by Shoup and Willson; “Parking Subsidies and Travel Choices: Assessing the Evidence,” by Willson and Shoup; and most importantly, “Cashing Out Employer-Paid Parking,” the big Federal Transit Administration report by Shoup.

Professor Shoup managed to make the apparently dry topic of parking economics and regulation not only worth studying, but compelling, fascinating, and at times, hilarious. I vividly remember sitting down in the stacks, reading his research papers on parking and laughing aloud at the insanity of it all.

Read more…

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NYC Replaces a Parking Crater With Parking-Free Housing and Retail

One of Manhattan’s few remaining parking craters is going to be filled in with housing and retail — all without any car storage, despite the city government’s belief that the site called for up to 500 parking spots. Call it “Parking Sanity.”

The project, called Essex Crossing, is on the Lower East Side. It replaces surface lots formerly known as the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, or SPURA, which were cleared decades ago and formed a parking crater engulfing multiple city blocks. The development will add 1,000 apartments (including 500 subsidized units), park space, a grocery store, a public market, and other retail.

Earlier this year, the developers decided to drop parking from the project entirely, even though the city pushed for up to 500 parking spaces — above and beyond the parking maximums that would normally be allowed under the zoning code.

The city, which initiated the project before selecting the developer, saw off-street parking as an elixir to help the project go down smoothly with the neighborhood. But it was not economical to build that much parking, and the developer eventually chose to eliminate parking entirely because site limitations would have placed the garage in a problematic location.

Streetsblog and Streetfilms recently sat down with Council Member Margaret Chin, who represents the area. Chin has advocated for the city to replace parking garages with affordable housing in her district, and she thinks things will be just fine without parking in the new development. As she says, people have plenty of other options for getting around.

Construction on the first phase of the development is set to begin this summer.

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Industry City Developer Thinks Sunset Park Waterfront Needs More Parking

The owner of Industry City, in background, says Sunset Park needs more parking. Photo: Google Maps

The owner of Industry City says Sunset Park needs more parking lots. Photo: Google Maps

A Sunset Park developer wants to use city land for a giant new parking lot, in what’s shaping up to be a test for Council Member Carlos Menchaca and the NYC Economic Development Corporation.

Industry City, which has 6 million square feet of industrial, office, and retail space in 16 buildings across more than 30 acres on the Sunset Park waterfront, is owned by a group of investors led by real estate firm Jamestown. Yesterday, the group announced a $1 billion redevelopment plan to attract employers in media, technology, fashion, and small-scale manufacturing.

The developers are asking for zoning changes to allow academic facilities, additional retail, and hotel uses at Industry City, which is zoned for manufacturing. They also have their eyes set on adding lots more parking.

The area has decent transit access, but it could be better. Industry City is near the express subway stop at 36th Street and Fourth Avenue and is served by three bus routes, including the crosstown B35 to Brownsville. That route has been identified as a priority for Select Bus Service expansion. Industry City is also right next to the planned Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway route and is a potential candidate for ferry service, though it was skipped over in the ferry network Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last month.

What the developers are focused on, though, is parking.

Industry City sits across the street from the city-owned South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, which already leases parking space to its neighbors, including 450 spots to Industry City. The development’s owners are looking to carve out up to five more acres for car storage in a corner of the 88-acre terminal site. According to back-of-the-envelope calculations by The Brooklyn Paper, that area — equal to the size of four football fields — could result in as many as 750 parking spaces.

Read more…

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DC Is Schooling NYC on Improving Pedestrian Safety at Intersections


We wrote last week that New York City allows drivers to park to the edge of crosswalks, which can make it more difficult for pedestrians and motorists to see each other. After we posted that story a reader noted that Washington, DC, does a good job with daylighting intersections.

DC code mandates that curbs remain clear of parked and standing vehicles from 25 to 40 feet from “intersection of curb lines,” though regulations vary depending on whether streets are one- or two-way. Drivers may not legally park or stand within 25 feet of a stop or yield sign. Public and private driveways are given five feet of clearance on each side.

One exception written into the law: Ice cream vendors are allowed to park their trucks “curbside when stopping to make a sale, as close as possible to a pedestrian cross-walk without entering the intersection, and without unduly interfering with the flow of traffic.”

Above is F Street NE at 5th Street NE, a few blocks east of Union Station. Rotate the Google image to see the different treatments for the four corners, all of which have some form of daylighting. Compare that to the images below of restricted sight lines that are typical on New York City residential streets. I’ve driven through the intersection below, and as a motorist you have to edge into the intersection to look for approaching traffic, a potential hazard for all street users.

What would have to happen for parking-obsessed City Council members David Greenfield and Vincent Gentile to call for new rules that would make it safer to walk in NYC by prohibiting parking near intersections?

Streetsblog USA
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Parking Madness 2015: Can Your Parking Crater Compete?

This is the image that made Rochester last year's winner.

Rochester won last year’s Parking Madness bracket with this downtown catastrophe where a real neighborhood once stood.

March is a special month on Streetsblog. It’s the time when the nation’s worst downtown parking scars face off head-to-head for the shame of winning the “golden crater” — and the local publicity bonanza that comes with it. For the third year running, we’re asking you to help seed the bracket in our Parking Madness tournament by sending in photos of the sorriest wastes of urban space you can find.

What makes for a good entry? We’re looking for downtown parking craters — expanses of urban land where there’s no longer space for people, just a sea of car storage — in North American cities. Craters that have already competed in Parking Madness tournaments are ineligible — please check the brackets from 2013 and 2014 before submitting.

To enter, send us a photo of the crater and a link to an aerial map (not just the link, please), as well as a description of why your crater deserves to win. You can submit your entry in the comments or email angie [at] streetsblog [dot] org.

Thanks for participating — looking forward to a new round of spectacular eyesores!

Tulsa, our 2013 winner.

Downtown Tulsa dominated the competition in 2013.

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The New York City Parking Rule That Makes Intersections More Dangerous

Parking at the edge of a crosswalk hinders visibility but is condoned under city traffic rules. Photos: Brad Aaron

Parking at the edge of a crosswalk hinders visibility but is condoned under city traffic rules. Photos: Brad Aaron

We’ve reported before how certain New York City parking rules are designed to cram a little more free car storage onto the street at the expense of pedestrian safety. In 2009, DOT removed parking restrictions on unmarked crosswalks at T intersections, and the city allows drivers with disability permits to block curb ramps that were intended to help pedestrians with disabilities cross the street.

Here’s another example of how the city prioritizes parking over life and limb. This photo shows Seaman Avenue in Inwood where it intersects with Isham Street at the entrance to Inwood Hill Park. For at least five days this SUV was parked right at the edge of this crosswalk, blocking sight lines for pedestrians as well as drivers turning right from Seaman onto Isham.

Parking right up against the crosswalk is dangerous enough that some states and cities, including New Jersey and Portland, forbid it. Drivers hurt and kill thousands of people in New York City crosswalks every year, and most victims are crossing with the signal. Poor visibility at intersections contributes to the problem, but NYC law makes it perfectly legal to obstruct sight lines with parked cars.

A parking rule fix would daylight intersections citywide, making motorists and pedestrians more visible to each other.

A parking rule fix would daylight intersections citywide, making motorists and pedestrians more visible to each other.

NACTO guidelines suggest 20 to 25 feet of clearance around crosswalks. New York City law, however, only prohibits parking within a crosswalk itself (unmarked crosswalks at T intersections excepted, of course). By allowing motorists to park where their vehicles reduce visibility at intersections, this city traffic rule is in direct conflict with the city’s Vision Zero goals.

Read more…

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De Blasio Team Gradually Beefing Up Its Parking Reform Proposals

New York is one step closer to overhauling a discredited policy that drives up the cost of housing and makes traffic congestion worse, but the scope of the reforms the de Blasio administration is pursuing remains limited.

The city is proposing to eliminate parking requirements in a new transit zone -- but only for subsidized units. Map: DCP

The city is proposing to eliminate parking requirements in a new transit zone — but only for subsidized units. Map: DCP

Last week, the Department of City Planning came out with the broad strokes of a major update to the city’s zoning code, including the elimination of parking mandates for affordable housing near transit. It’s the first time City Hall has proposed completely doing away with mandatory parking minimums for any type of housing in such a large area outside the Manhattan core. However, market-rate projects, which the administration expects to account for most new housing in the next 10 years, would still be required to include a predetermined amount of off-street parking.

The new proposal is a step up from the housing plan that City Hall released last May, which sought to reduce but not eliminate parking minimums for affordable housing close to transit. To cut the costs of housing construction, DCP is now seeking to get rid of parking mandates for affordable housing within a newly-designated “transit zone.”

Similar parking reforms for affordable housing are already in effect in Downtown Brooklyn and the Manhattan core. What’s encouraging is that the transit zone is much larger than those areas. Most new construction in the city will probably fall within its boundaries.

The transit zone overlaps in large part with areas less than half a mile from a subway station where multi-unit housing is allowed. Some neighborhoods with low car ownership rates just beyond the reach of the subway are included, while others with subway access, like Bay Ridge and Howard Beach, are not. It covers just about every part of the city where large-scale housing construction is likely.

Within this new zone, parking requirements would be eliminated for new affordable housing, including senior housing and “inclusionary” housing attached to market-rate projects. Existing senior units in the transit zone would be able to get rid of parking without requiring special approvals, while other affordable buildings in the zone must be reviewed by the City Planning Commission before eliminating unused parking.

Outside the transit zone, parking requirements for all types of affordable units would be simplified and reduced. Mandates for senior housing in high-density areas outside the transit zone would be eliminated entirely, while areas that allow single-family houses would retain existing parking rules.

Parking policy experts lauded the city’s move, but noted that it falls far short of what other cities are doing. “Overall, this is a really positive step,” said Columbia University city planning professor David King. “Recognizing that parking requirements are a burden for supplying housing, and affordable housing, is a big deal.”

While the city acknowledges that mandatory off-street parking contributes to high construction costs, it proposes solutions to this problem only for subsidized units. Market-rate units, it seems, will have to continue under the current parking mandates.

“If it’s good for affordable housing, why isn’t it good for all housing?” asked King.

Read more…