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Posts from the "Boerum Hill" Category

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Brooklyn CB 2 Committee Supports PARK Smart for Atlantic, Court, and Smith

On-street parking reform for Atlantic Avenue, Court Street, and Smith Street in Brooklyn moved ahead last night with a 6-0-1 vote from Community Board 2′s transportation committee in favor of a new DOT PARK Smart zone. The proposal [PDF], prompted by a request from the owner of Sahadi’s, aims to curb traffic and increase on-street parking availability for retail shoppers by allowing meter rates to rise after the first 30 minutes.

DOT aims to curb traffic and increase parking turnover by discouraging drivers from parking on commercial streets for hours at a time. Blue lines indicate streets that will receive the PARK Smart reforms; orange lines show streets included in the study that will not be seeing any parking meter changes.

Presently, Atlantic Avenue west of Fourth Avenue and Court and Smith Streets between Atlantic Avenue and Sackett Street includes a mix of one- and two-hour limits, with rates at $1 per hour. Today, with limited enforcement of time limits, it’s common for some motorists to park all day on busy commercial streets — even as nearby garages sit mostly-empty — while retail customers circle for available spots.

“People are staying all day on both sides of Atlantic,” said DOT PARK Smart manager Manzell Blakeley. ”People are really staying for four or five hours.”

The PARK Smart proposal would discourage long-term parking with a pricing structure that ramps up charges for longer stays. The area would receive a uniform two-hour limit, and rates would remain at 50 cents for the first half-hour. But the second half-hour would cost $1, the third would also cost $1, and the fourth would cost $1.50. A driver looking to skirt the rules and keep paying the low rate for long stays would have to feed the meter every 30 minutes.

Charlie Sahadi, who owns Sahadi’s food store on Atlantic Avenue, said that it can be difficult to know how customers get to the store, though he often hears complaints from customers who have to circle for parking. He mentioned the problem to State Senator Daniel Squadron, who connected him with DOT’s PARK Smart staff.

“If you’re in the retail business, you depend on customers coming in and buying stuff,” Sahadi said. “My aim is to get more foot traffic on the street.”

Sahadi thinks DOT’s progressive rate structure will make it easier for his customers find parking, and is glad that it can be tweaked in the future. “One of the beauties of PARK Smart is, it’s flexible,” he said. “It’s worth a shot.”

To come up with the new policy, DOT interviewed over 100 business owners and held an open house to get feedback. The agency also used time-lapse photos of the area’s streets — a new data-collection method for PARK Smart — to determine parking occupancy and duration rates.

Read more…

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Coming Soon: “Nice, Cool and Chic” Ground Floor Parking in Boerum Hill

The developer of this Boerum Hill property with an entire ground floor devoted to parking says it's good for the neighborhood. Image: ODA Architecture via Crain's

An 85-unit residential building proposed for the corner of Bergen Street and Third Avenue in Boerum Hill sits just blocks from Atlantic Terminal, with access to nine subway lines and the Long Island Rail Road. But the city’s zoning requirements mandate at least 43 parking spaces for its 85 units, and the entire first floor of the building will be a giant parking garage, facing both the street and the avenue. According to a report in the Observer, the project’s developer says construction is scheduled begin within 10 days and take approximately 18 months.

The project's latest rendering adds streaking lights from passing cars to activate the first floor. Image: ODA Architecture via Commercial Observer

“We are bringing to the neighborhood what we think will be a nice, cool and chic new building,” developer Miki Naftali told the Observer.

Perhaps in an effort to boost the “nice, cool and chic” factor, the latest rendering of the building tries to disguise the first floor parking lot with some streaking lights from cars on the street.

In the surrounding Census tract, 74 percent of households are car-free. The intersection falls just outside the area of downtown Brooklyn slated for parking requirement reductions, which must still be approved by the City Planning Commission. With projects like this being built under current zoning, parking reform for the rest of the city’s “inner ring” beyond downtown Brooklyn can’t come soon enough.

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Thanks to Brooklyn Parking Minimums, 360 Degrees of Ground Floor Parking

The full ground floor of this super-transit-accessible Boerum Hill project will be dedicated to automobile storage, thanks to New York City's parking minimums. Image: ODA Architecture via Crain's

Parking minimums have struck another blow for terrible urban design, this time just three blocks from the transit mega-hub of Atlantic/Pacific, where nine subway lines and the LIRR converge. A new luxury apartment building going up at the corner of Bergen Street and Third Avenue will dedicate its entire ground floor, facing both the side street and the avenue, to one big, open garage.

The decision to give ground floor space to automobile storage and curb cuts rather than retail, a lobby or a stoop is very likely a result of the city’s outdated and anti-urban parking minimums (hat tip to Ben Furnas for flagging the project). The new development will have 85 apartments and 45 parking spaces, according to Department of Buildings records. Under current zoning, the law mandates that a building of that size include at least 43 parking spaces.

That’s close enough to indicate that the two extra spaces were probably architectural remainders left over after complying with the parking minimums. (In its definitive research, NYU’s Furman Center counts buildings that exceed their parking minimums by less than 25 percent as potentially constrained by the zoning mandate).

The Naftali Group, the building’s developer, didn’t respond to a Streetsblog inquiry about the project, so we can’t know for certain how much parking the developers would have preferred to build, nor why they opted to place it on the ground floor. In other nearby projects, though, parking has ended up on the ground floor rather than underground due to the high water table.

This site has better transit access than almost any place in the country. It’s hard to imagine that the Department of City Planning really believes that valuable ground floor space is best used as a parking lot. DCP’s review of parking minimums in the “inner ring” of New York City neighborhoods is expected to start by reducing or eliminating the car-friendly mandates in Downtown Brooklyn. Here’s hoping this building convinces Amanda Burden to define Downtown Brooklyn generously.

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Jim Brennan Wants to Force Ratner to Build More Atlantic Yards Parking

Could the state legislature get in on the costly, congestion-inducing parking minimum game? And could they do it at the site of Brooklyn’s biggest transit hub? Under a proposal by Assembly Member James Brennan, that’s exactly what would happen.

Assembly Member James Brennan wants the state government to force more parking into Atlantic Yards. Image: NYS Assembly.

Brennan is working on legislation that would force Forest City Ratner to build more off-street parking at the Atlantic Yards site, as was first reported in the Park Slope Patch. Currently, an 1,100 parking space surface lot is slated for the site.

“We’re going to force them to provide more off-street parking,” Brennan told the Patch. “There is no reason that Forest City Ratner should be allowed to not provide parking.”

Tonice Sgrignoli, a legislative aide for Brennan, said the legislation is still being researched and no details are available at this point. According to Sgrignoli, ESDC eliminated a requirement to build underground off-street parking that had been in an earlier agreement with Forest City Ratner and this legislation would likely undo that change.

When Streetsblog asked why Brennan thought that Atlantic Yards should have more parking in the first place, Sgrignoli replied that “Anyone who’s ever tried to drive a car and park it in that area will understand why it’s important to provide parking.”

Hopefully, Brennan himself has a more sophisticated understanding of parking policy. As former Boerum Hill Association president Jo Ann Simon said, no conceivable amount of off-street parking is going to free up on-street spaces so long as they are cheaper than going to a garage and available to anybody. “If people drive there, they will always try and find something free on the street,” she said. What happens on-street — many in the area, including Simon, have long pushed for residential parking permits — Simon said, “is entirely irrelevant to whether there should be more off-street parking to serve the arena.”

Simon’s argument is borne out by the reality at Yankee Stadium. There, despite a whopping 9,000 off-street spaces, area residents still complain that on-street parking is impossible on game day, according to a Crain’s report.

Moreover, building extra parking will simply mean that more people are able to drive to the area instead. “Brennan’s proposal to compel more off-street parking in one of New York City’s most transit-accessible locations betrays a terrible lack of understanding regarding transportation and mobility,” said University of Pennsylvania parking expert Rachel Weinberger. “His idea will invite more traffic through his district, more traffic in adjoining districts, and by requiring all of that parking, other development is preempted.”

Agreed Simon, “You induce drivers if there is parking there.”

Steven Higashide of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, which has analyzed the plans for Atlantic Yards and is a member of the Brooklyn Speaks coalition, said that underground parking had been a part of the Atlantic Yards plans, but was removed when the amount of development planned was scaled back.

“The only way Atlantic Yards can become part of a vibrant urban fabric is if the city and developer work to reduce driving to the site,” said Higashide. “Providing hundreds or thousands of extra parking spaces won’t do that.”

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Tonight: Get In on the Ground Floor of Steve Levin’s Traffic Task Force

Brooklyn Council Member Steve Levin will host the first meeting of a new “traffic task force” tonight in Boerum Hill. According to Levin spokesperson Hope Reichbach, the group is convening in response to a number of long-time neighborhood traffic issues.

Reichbach says the initial meeting will serve to outline long-term goals — one possibility is to lobby DOT for a 20 mph pilot zone. Brooklyn DOT Commissioner Joseph Palmieri will be asked to the next meeting. Levin plans for the group to meet every six weeks to two months, says Reichbach.

The membership roll at this point consists of Levin and Reichbach as co-chairs, plus two members of the Boerum Hill Association. Community Boards 2 and 6 will also be invited to participate. Now would be the time for livable streets advocates to get involved as well.

Tonight’s meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at Brooklyn Community Board 6, 250 Baltic St., at Court.

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Legacy of Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Advocates Continues

A bit more background on the generous neckdown at Smith and Bergen spotlighted earlier today: This pedestrian amenity never would have been built without the long-term organizing for the Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project. Street protests and advocacy campaigns stretching back more than a dozen years are bearing fruit now.

And advocates are still on their game, pushing for more. This slideshow comes from Dave "Paco" Abraham, a volunteer with Transportation Alternatives' Brooklyn Committee who's had his eye on the corner of Smith and Bergen in particular. "I always thought that intersection needed something," he said. Thousands of commuters pass through the subway entrances on these corners every day. You've got students walking to schools on Bergen and customers heading to the restaurant row on Smith. They're all contending with traffic that tends to accelerate on the excessively wide Bergen as drivers try to make the light at Court Street.

When Abraham heard the city was moving on a big slate of downtown Brooklyn traffic calming measures, he drew up a letter urging the maximum possible sidewalk extension and the addition of bike parking at the northwest corner of the intersection. He met with more than a dozen merchants in the immediate vicinity and asked them to sign on. "I don’t think there was a place I went to that said no," he says. "It was tremendous." He also garnered support from local civic groups and the two nearest schools -- the Brooklyn Heights Montessori School and the Mary McDowell Learning Center.

It's hard to say precisely what effect Abraham's campaign had on the final outcome at this intersection. But there's a lot more sidewalk real estate here than at your typical curb extension, and, at the very least, DOT knew there was widespread local support for something ambitious, thanks to his organizing. DOT is considering the addition of bike parking, a spokesman told Streetsblog earlier this week.

If you're interested in putting together a similar campaign for a specific intersection, Abraham has a whole tutorial about building momentum for a "bike parking swap" posted on the Livable Streets Community site.

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Now That’s What I Call a Neckdown!

smith_bergen1.jpg

Since the spring, DOT construction crews have been building out traffic calming improvements all over the neighborhoods near downtown Brooklyn. When the years-in-the-making Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Project wraps up, pedestrians will have safer crossings at dozens of intersections. The sidewalk extension at the northwest corner of Smith and Bergen, shown here, is especially impressive. Several hundred square feet of street space now belong to pedestrians instead of cars.

I popped up from my subway ride home yesterday to take some pictures, and in the five minutes I spent there, it was plainly obvious that people feel more comfortable and at ease on the sidewalk with all that extra room. First, to give a sense of the extension's size, check out what this corner used to look like (you can use the green "Smith's Grocery" awning to orient yourself).

smith_before.jpg

After the jump, more traffic-calmed goodness.

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Mayor Bloomberg Announces New Residential Parking Program


DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler (in back), Mayor Bloomberg, Boerum Hill Association President Sue Wolfe and Council Member David Yassky.

Thanks to another 11:30am press conference in Midtown, I figured Streetsblog might be the only press to cover Mayor Bloomberg's announcement of a new, citywide residential parking permit program. But, no. There was plenty of other media gathered at the corner of Bond and Bergen Streets in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Let's see if there's any room in tonight's newscasts and tomorrow's papers for stories about something other than Governor Spitzer.

Stay tuned for details...

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Senator in Gridlocked Brooklyn District Has Doubts About Pricing

Montgomery.jpgFor a sense of the challenge that lays ahead for congestion pricing supporters, take a look at the mailer that Brooklyn Democratic State Senator Velmanette Montgomery sent to all of her constituents last week. Montgomery has a smart, engaged staff when it comes to transportation policy and she has often been helpful when it comes to Livable Streets issues.

Her 18th Senatorial District covers Bed-Stuy, Boerum Hill, Downtown Brooklyn, Gowanus and Sunset Park -- a swath of Brooklyn that is absolutely pummeled by regional through-traffic and epidemic asthma rates. Clearly, Montgomery's district stands to gain more than most from reductions in traffic congestion and improvements to mass transit and air quality.

Yet, in her mailing, Montgomery says Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan "is silent as to the benefits for the outer boroughs and for upper Manhattan." For that and other reasons she has "major reservations" about the proposal. Montgomery then presents a number of informational points and objections to the pricing plan while offering no suggestion of any benefits to her constituents. 

One of the arguments stands out. Montgomery writes, "The congestion pricing measure will not help asthma sufferers." That one appears to be pulled directly from pricing opponents' talking points and, by most reliable accounts, is not based in fact.

If the Senate Democrats matter in the coming debate then, clearly, congestion pricing supporters have some work to do.

If you get congestion pricing mailings and letters from your elected officials, please send them to Streetsblog. Find Montgomery's mailing, in full, after the jump...

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Congestion Pricing: Joan Millman is Not Convinced

millman.jpgState Assembly Member Joan Millman's Downtown and brownstone Brooklyn district includes some of the most politically progressive, environmentally-conscious and traffic-choked neighborhoods of New York City -- neighborhoods that have been clamoring for traffic relief for years. Yet, Millman is, for now, opposed to Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan. In a letter sent to constituents who contacted her office Millman cites five concerns, summed up as follows:

  • The mayor's congestion pricing plan will create "undue hardships for many New Yorkers." 
  • The transit system is inadequate "to accommodate many of the New York City residents who currently commute to Manhattan by car," particularly the elderly and disabled.
  • The majority of traffic into Manhattan is created by commuters from outside New York City so they should pay more.
  • "Because a congestion pricing proposal of this magnitude has the potential to become a bureaucratic catastrophe, the details of administration and reinvestment must be carefully worked out well before the plan is approved."
  • "While several large corporations are in support of the Mayor's plan," Millman has "not yet heard the same positive feedback from small, locally owned businesses."

Here is the complete text of Millman's letter:

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