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Posts from the Parking Category

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Who Rules the Roost on Jay Street? Placard Abusers, That’s Who

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Most of Jay Street is a “no standing zone” where placard holders both real and fake park without consequence. Photo: David Meyer

Jay Street in downtown Brooklyn is one of the most important segments in the city’s bike network, the key passage to and from the Manhattan Bridge. It’s also a huge impediment to biking in the city — the street is rife with double-parking, illegal U-turns, and the unnerving threat of a car door suddenly opening and throwing you into the path of a passing bus. An upcoming redesign of Jay Street should improve the situation, but it too will be hampered by the culture of parking placard abuse that pervades downtown Brooklyn streets.

The chaos on Jay Street emanates from placard holders and fake placard holders who park all over the place. Even legit placards aren’t a valid license to park in bus stops or crosswalks, but NYPD doesn’t enforce the rules. Soon after the 84th Precinct cracked down on Jay Street placard abuse in 2014, the commanding officer was reassigned.

Advocates campaigned long and hard to get the city to redesign Jay Street, and this summer, DOT plans to flip the bike lane with the parking lane to provide some physical protection. It should be a less stressful experience, but there’s a catch: The proposed bike lane is a sub-standard width on a street that typically already sees 2,400 cyclists in the peak 12-hour period. The National Association of City Transportation Officials advises that protected lanes should be at least five feet wide with a three-foot buffer from parked cars to keep cyclists clear of the door zone, but the Jay Street design calls for five-foot lanes with two-foot buffers.

The bike lane could be wider if it weren’t for all the placard parking on Jay Street. Take out the parking, and there’s a lot more room to work with. If the city was willing to make placard holders park a little further from their destinations — like in one of the many nearby garages with a glut of parking, thanks to downtown Brooklyn’s parking requirements — the options for good street design open up.

So who is parking on Jay Street? Whose entitlement to convenient personal parking trumps street safety and good bus service for everyone? I made a few trips in the past week to document the placard abuse up close.

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Parking Madness: Federal Way vs. Montreal

We’re just getting started with Parking Madness 2016 — our annual hunt for North America’s worst parking craters. So far, Washington, D.C., and Rutland, Vermont, have advanced to the second round.

Today’s matchup pits the Seattle suburb of Federal Way against the pride of Quebec — Montreal. It’s the second Canadian parking crater in this year’s competition, reminding us that the United States doesn’t hold a monopoly on hideous parking scars.

Federal Way

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Federal Way is a city of 92,000 located along the highway between Seattle and Tacoma. An anonymous reader sent this satellite image with orange outlines denoting surface parking. The red outline marks the Federal Way Transit Center, a hub for buses bound for Seattle and Tacoma. A 7.8-mile light rail extension from Seattle is slated to serve this area, which is barely more than a collection of surface parking lots.

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Parking Requirements Will Be Reduced in a Huge Chunk of NYC

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In the orange areas, parking requirements will no longer apply to subsidized housing and senior housing. Map via City Council. Click to enlarge.

The de Blasio administration and the City Council released more details of their agreed-upon housing plan this afternoon, including a map showing where parking requirements will be reduced. For the most part, it’s very good news: Parking requirements will be eliminated for subsidized housing and senior housing in 90 percent of the area originally proposed by City Hall.

The so-called “transit zone,” the area in line for lower parking requirements, shrank in a handful of neighborhoods concentrated in southern Brooklyn, central Queens, and the east Bronx. For the most part, though, the map approved by two City Council committees today keeps City Hall’s parking reforms intact.

In a huge area of the city (the part well-served by the subway, roughly speaking), building subsidized housing and senior housing will no longer be weighed down by mandates that required the construction of car storage — much of which went unused. The new rules also enable construction on existing parking lots on subsidized housing sites, as long as the new housing is also below market-rate. Basically, building shelter for people is going to get easier because New York stopped insisting on requiring so much shelter for cars.

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It’s Washington vs. Burlington in the Parking Madness 2016 Tip Off!

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Welcome to Parking Madness, Streetsblog’s annual Sweet 16 tournament of parking craters. What’s a parking crater? Simply put, it’s a depression in the cityscape, a void where car storage has usurped land that should be devoted to buildings.

This is the fourth year Streetsblog readers have submitted more than enough entries to field a 16-crater bracket. Thanks to everyone who nominated a crater — if we could accept them all we would, but there are just too many downtown parking scars to put them all in the competition.

Entries advance through the tournament by beating other parking craters in a reader vote. Today’s match-up is practically ripped from the headlines: Burlington, Vermont, where Bernie Sanders served as mayor in the 1980s, goes up against Washington and the parking crater at the epicenter of the American political establishment.

First up: Burlington.

Here’s an overhead shot of the area where Main Street meets South Winooski Avenue.

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Brendan Hogan submitted this entry. He writes:

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Mark-Viverito’s East Harlem Plan Recommends Tossing Parking Minimums

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito greets constituents in her East Harlem district, which is slated for upzoning as part of the mayor's plan to increase the city's affordable housing stock. Image: William Alatriste

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito greets constituents in her East Harlem district, which is slated for upzoning as part of the mayor’s plan to increase the city’s affordable housing stock. Photo: William Alatriste

Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito has released an “East Harlem Neighborhood Plan” to guide the city’s rezoning of the community, and one of the recommendations is the elimination of parking minimums.

The 138-page plan [PDF] was developed over the past 10 months as a joint project of Mark-Viverito, Community Board 11, Borough President Gale Brewer, and the grassroots social justice group Community Voices Heard. Among its recommendations, the plan calls for “increased density in select places to create more affordable housing and spaces for jobs” and that “any potential rezoning should eliminate minimum parking requirements.”

The parking minimum recommendation is unequivocal and would apply to all housing, not just subsidized housing like the de Blasio administration’s citywide “Zoning for Quality and Affordability” plan. ZQA only eliminates minimum parking requirements for affordable and senior housing development within the so-called “transit zone” — areas that are, generally speaking, a short walk from high-capacity transit.

Mark-Viverito hasn’t taken a position on the parking reforms in ZQA, and her office declined multiple inquiries from Streetsblog on the topic. The City Council is fractured on the issue, but the East Harlem plan indicates that the speaker supports the idea that mandatory car storage is less important than maximizing housing options.

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4 More City Council Members Weigh in on Parking Reform

The mayor is proposing the elimination of parking requirements in new affordable housing projects within the designated "transit zone," in purple: Image: DCP

The mayor’s rezoning proposal eliminates minimum parking requirements for subsidized housing within the designated “transit zone,” in purple: Image: DCP

Last week, City Hall’s proposal to reduce parking minimums for subsidized housing near transit got a hearing in the City Council, and for the most part it wasn’t pretty. Council members may say they want more affordable housing, but for many of them, that support gets shaky if it means requiring less parking in residential development.

The parking reforms are part of a larger rezoning package that needs approval from the City Council in order to be enacted. Some changes are expected before a vote is held, and lower parking requirements could be in jeopardy, especially in areas where council members are hostile to the idea.

Last week we published what council members said about parking minimums during the hearing. Streetsblog is calling around to get more council members on the record. Here’s what we’ve heard so far — this batch of four council reps gives more cause for optimism than last week’s batch of nine.


Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez (Washington Heights, Inwood)

YRHSRodriguez, whose Upper Manhattan district is in the transit zone, took to Twitter last week to reiterate his support for the parking reforms. Rodriguez had previously voiced his support for eliminating parking minimums entirely. Speaking at NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation in October, Rodriguez argued for the elimination of parking minimums to help get New Yorkers out of cars and into other modes of transportation. “If we can broaden these reforms beyond just affordable and senior housing,” he said, “we will encourage residents to find new, safe and efficient ways to get to work without straining their pockets or our streets.”

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Eric Adams Proposes Downtown Brooklyn Car-Share Fleet for City Agencies

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is open to clearing Borough Hall Plaza of parked cars, and he also wants City Hall to study a car-share system for government agencies in Downtown Brooklyn.

We reported last November that Adams and his staff resumed using the plaza as a parking lot after an $11 million rehab, following the lead of his predecessor, shameless space hog Marty Markowitz.

In a recent letter to Mayor de Blasio, Adams said he is considering an internal survey to determine how Borough Hall employees get to work and looking at using off-site garages instead of the plaza.

He also suggested that city agencies with offices in Downtown Brooklyn may be able to consolidate their fleets. Adams wants to the city to investigate a “municipal car share system” to consolidate the vehicles of the half-dozen or so agencies located downtown. The Department of Buildings, the Department of Education, and DOT are among the agencies with offices in the area.

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Paying for Parking in NYC Is About to Get Easier, But Will It Get Smarter?

Last week, Mayor de Blasio and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg announced the implementation of a new payment option for all of the city’s 85,000 metered parking spaces. By the end of the year, people will be able to pay for parking using a mobile app.

Parkmobile, the likely contractor for DOT's new pay-by-cell parking, will allow users to pay via mobile app or phone call. Image: Parkmobile

Parkmobile, the likely contractor for DOT’s new pay-by-cell parking, will allow users to pay via mobile app or phone call. Image: Parkmobile

Mobile payment is a lot more convenient for drivers than Muni meters and paper receipts. On its own, however, it can’t change the fact that most metered spots are underpriced, which makes it hard for drivers to find open spots and causes a significant share of traffic in commercial districts. The big promise of mobile payment is that can be the spoonful of sugar that helps dynamic meter pricing go down.

Will mobile payment be rolled out at the same time as expansions of Park Smart, DOT’s dynamic meter pricing program? DOT hasn’t tied the two together yet, but the agency did tell Streetsblog that this year, it “will be collecting parking metrics in neighborhoods across the city to build parking profiles which may influence changes that NYC DOT may make in the near future to parking rates and regulation.”

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City Council’s Zeal for Affordable Housing Crumbles If It Means Less Parking

On Tuesday, members of the City Council hammered the de Blasio administration for not guaranteeing enough housing units for low-income New Yorkers in new construction. But yesterday, when the topic turned to building more affordable housing by reducing parking requirements, several Council members lost their zeal for housing and worried more about car storage.

The mayor is proposing the elimination of parking requirements in new affordable housing projects within the designated "transit zone," in purple: Image: DCP

The proposed “transit zone” where parking requirements for subsidized housing would no longer apply. Image: DCP

The hearing yesterday was about the City Hall proposal called “Zoning for Quality and Affordability,” or ZQA for short. One exciting aspect of ZQA is that it would reduce mandatory parking minimums for subsidized housing in a large swath of the city — freeing up space and resources to house people instead of cars. It’s not as exciting as eliminating all parking minimums everywhere, but it’s the single largest reform proposed for the city’s parking requirements in a long time.

Yesterday, Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been and City Planning Commission Chair Carl Weisbrod answered questions from council members about ZQA. The same chamber that the day before was so passionate about providing sufficient housing for less affluent New Yorkers suddenly seemed willing to compromise the construction of affordable residences in order to preserve the guaranteed construction of parking.

Following the lead of community boards, most council members who spoke yesterday seemed convinced that reducing parking requirements would be a burden on their constituents. Several of them wanted to keep their districts out of the “transit zone,” the area where parking requirements would no longer apply to subsidized housing. They often cited the inadequacy of transit in their districts as a reason to oppose the parking reforms, even though parking requirements make surface transit worse by pumping more traffic onto the streets.

Been and Weisbrod repeatedly emphasized that the overwhelming majority of parking spots in subsidized housing developments are unused. “We’re not saying that, in a given area, a housing provider can’t provide parking to its residents,” Weisbrod said. “We’re simply saying that we shouldn’t require it when we know and they know that it wouldn’t be utilized and those funds could better be used for other purposes — for affordable housing and, even more importantly, the space could be used for either affordable housing or open space or other community amenities.”

A major question going forward is whether City Hall and the council will water down the parking reforms before a vote on ZQA. If that happens, there will be no vote and no public record of council members’ positions on the proposal as it exists today. So here’s a record of what City Council members said about parking minimums at the hearing.

Zoning and Franchises Committee Chair Donovan Richards (Southeast Queens) 

Photo: NYC Council

“In Queens you can get to Florida by plane just as quickly as you can get to Manhattan,” said Richards. While questioning Been and Weisbrod, he suggested that some neighborhoods in the transit zones did not have “reliable” transportation options. “Certainly there would be some adverse impacts on some of the particular transit zones you’ve presented,” he said. “So this is a continuous conversation but we’re certainly hoping that you’re open to refining some of the transit zones as we move forward.”

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The Key for Park Slope to Keep Its Big Grocery Store: Less Parking

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The Park Slope Key Food site. Image: Avery Hall Investments via DNAinfo

The notion that New York City housing construction shouldn’t be weighed down by mandatory parking minimums got a combative response from some City Council members at a hearing today. Streetsblog will have a thorough round-up of who said what tomorrow morning. In the meantime, here’s a quick detour to Park Slope for a related story about how parking rules everything around us.

At issue is the redevelopment of a 36,000-square-foot Key Food and adjacent parking lot by Fifth Avenue in north Park Slope. The store sells groceries at affordable prices and is an emblem of the organizing that helped turn around the neighborhood in the 1970s and 80s. Replacing it is a big deal.

In addition to about 400 locals, Council Member Brad Lander, Borough President Eric Adams, and Public Advocate Tish James were on hand for the meeting last night where developer Avery Hall Investments presented its plan, DNAinfo reports. The project would consist of 165 apartments, ground floor retail, a car-free “piazza” between two new buildings — and 182 underground parking spots (the site currently has about 100 surface spaces).

The aspect that has people most up in arms is the smaller size of the replacement grocery store. It would only be 7,500 square feet, about one-fifth the size of the Key Food.

As Stephen Smith pointed out on Twitter, you can swap in a much bigger grocery store if you lose some parking:

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