Parking reform in Downtown Brooklyn doesn’t go far enough, said developers at a public hearing last night, and the land use committee of Brooklyn Community Board 2 agreed. They want reduced parking requirements to apply not only to new buildings, as proposed by the Department of City Planning, but also to existing buildings and developments under construction. This would allow developers to convert empty floors of parking into retail, housing, or office space.
Construction is currently underway on 29 Flatbush Avenue, which was required to include multiple floors of parking that the developer did not want to build.
The DCP proposal is a step forward for Downtown Brooklyn but could go much farther: It would cut the current parking minimums in half, and eliminate them for affordable housing. Though parking politics in New York City is often hotly contested, not a single member of the public appeared at last night’s hearing to testify against the changes or to push for the continued oversupply of parking spaces.
Instead, representatives of Brooklyn’s real estate industry came to describe how the requirements, which currently mandate the construction of four parking spaces for every 10 market-rate residences, are raising rents for everyone in the area. “We have parking in the basement, the ground level, the second floor and the third floor, at great expense,” said Drew Spitler, whose company is building a 327-unit apartment building at 29 Flatbush Avenue. “We went to great pain to build the parking, because of the current requirements.”
Rather than request the outright elimination of parking mandates, the developers asked to make the reduction in Downtown Brooklyn parking requirements retroactive, allowing them to repurpose existing parking. “You could use the third or fourth level of parking for new industries that are coming into Downtown Brooklyn, retail, housing, you name it,” said Tom Conoscenti, the executive director of planning and administration for the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership. “Activate these spaces.”
Indirectly, making parking reform retroactive could also allow future developments to be built without parking, despite the continued existence of parking minimums. Existing buildings could rent out no-longer-required spaces to satisfy the parking requirements for new projects going up nearby, confirmed Purnima Kapur, director of DCP’s Brooklyn office.
The call for retroactively reducing parking requirements was echoed by representatives from Two Trees Management Company, Forest City Ratner, 388 Bridge and The Hub. Between all of their Downtown Brooklyn projects, hundreds of parking spaces could be repurposed.