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Posts from the "Amanda Burden" Category

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LA Planners Leapfrog NYC DCP, Approve Plan With No Mandatory Parking

Angie reported this morning that Washington, DC, is moving to reduce mandatory parking requirements in much of the city, which should lower the cost of housing and curb traffic. Meanwhile, despite talk last year of wide-ranging parking reforms for New York’s “inner ring” encircling the Manhattan core, the Department of City Planning has so far only managed to put forward a reduction of parking minimums in transit-saturated Downtown Brooklyn, the most screamingly obvious location.

All the shaded blocks will have no parking requirements under the plan approved yesterday by the Los Angeles Planning Commission.

Now you can add another city to the rapidly expanding list of places leapfrogging NYC on parking reform: Los Angeles.

Yesterday the Los Angeles City Planning Commission approved the Cornfield Arroyo Seco plan, which will eliminate parking minimums as part of a bid to spur mixed-use development along the Gold Line, a light-rail route that began service in 2003. (Streetsblog LA posted this summary of the plan by Joe Linton in 2009.)

Curbed LA reports:

City Planner Claire Bowin told Curbed today that the lack of parking requirements will allow developers to “minimize the amount of parking for specific projects,” given the neighborhood’s proximity to transit, the changing culture of Los Angeles, and the declining need for parking. Given that parking is usually one of the most expensive components of a development project, developers are expected to minimize the construction of parking, or build parking that they can then rent for public uses not attached to their site. The effect, says Bowin, will be to “let the market decide” how much parking is needed and where.

For everyone keeping score at home, Los Angeles has managed to do away with parking minimums along a corridor that’s served by a single light-rail line. Here in NYC, Amanda Burden’s planning department could only muster the will to halve parking requirements for Downtown Brooklyn, with its 14 subway lines.

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Planning Commission OKs Paltry Parking Reform for Downtown Brooklyn

The New York City Department of City Planning announced yesterday that the City Planning Commission has approved a measure to reduce Downtown Brooklyn’s onerous parking minimums. But the commission, chaired by Amanda Burden, appears to have wasted an opportunity to improve on the timid reforms.

The City Planning Commission moved ahead with reducing -- but not eliminating -- the Downtown Brooklyn parking minimums that force developers to build entire floors of unwanted parking, like at 29 Flatbush.

The good news is that new developments in Downtown Brooklyn, one of the most transit-rich places in America, will no longer have to include four parking spaces for every 10 residential units, and the mandate for affordable housing to include parking will be eliminated. That should make it easier to supply much-needed housing and lessen the government-mandated incentive to own and drive a car.

The bad news is that the new rules still require two parking spaces for every 10 units of market-rate housing. Instead of letting builders supply parking based on demand or capping the supply of parking to curb traffic, DCP and the planning commission insist on guessing how many people will own cars and compelling developers to build that amount of parking. In DCP’s words, the amendment is an attempt to “match residential requirements to residents’ use.” But as one downtown Brooklyn developer told DCP officials at a June hearing, a 20 percent mandate still compels the construction of more parking than some developers believe residents will use.

At public hearings this summer, Borough President Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn Community Board 2, and a parade of developers all asked for the lower parking minimums to apply retroactively, so that residential parking spots which currently sit empty can be repurposed as retail space, offices, or other uses. The zoning amendment that the planning department linked to in its Twitter announcement yesterday [PDF] does not apply the changes to existing buildings, however. Streetsblog has a request in with DCP to see if the planning commission decided to update the proposal and let developers repurpose their empty parking spaces after all before voting on the amendment.

UPDATE: DCP confirms that the amendment was revised to apply the lower parking minimums retroactively — a welcome improvement. A second revision would let developers site the mandated off-street parking up to half a mile from a new project, up from a quarter mile in the original amendment. This enhances a provision that allows developers to put the mandatory parking in public parking garages.

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Times Architecture Critic Calls For Eliminating NYC Parking Minimums

Times critic Michael Kimmelman and NYC Planning Director Amanda Burden on a walking tour of the South Bronx last year. Image: NYT

The fight to eliminate parking minimums in New York City just went mainstream.

As part of a wide-ranging exploration of parking lots and public space set to run in Sunday’s paper, New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman signed on to the growing list of people urging New York City’s Department of City Planning to scrap the costly and outdated requirements that force new developments in most of the city to include parking. The whole article is well worth a read, but here’s Kimmelman’s NYC-specific recommendation:

For big cities like New York it is high time to abandon outmoded zoning codes from the auto-boom days requiring specific ratios of parking spaces per housing unit, or per square foot of retail space. These rules about minimum parking spaces have driven up the costs of apartments for developers and residents, damaged the environment, diverted money that could have gone to mass transit and created a government-mandated cityscape that’s largely unused. We keep adding to the glut of parking lots. Crain’s recently reported on the largely empty garages at new buildings like Avalon Fort Greene, a 42-story luxury tower near downtown Brooklyn, and 80 DeKalb Avenue, up the block, both well occupied, both of which built hundreds of parking spaces to woo tenants. Garages near Yankee Stadium, built over the objections of Bronx neighbors appalled at losing parkland for yet more parking lots, turn out never to be more than 60 percent full, even on game days. The city has lost public space, the developers have lost a fortune.

Kimmelman hits the nail on the head, noting that the parking requirements are an environmental disaster in America’s most car-free city, an obstacle to the construction of badly-needed housing, and often incompatible with good urban design. In calling for the outright elimination of parking minimums, Kimmelman goes far beyond the reforms being hinted at by DCP. Right now, DCP is only considering a reduction in parking minimums and only in a few neighborhoods near the Manhattan core. No actual proposal to cut the “inner ring” parking requirements has been released, though DCP has proposed eliminating parking minimums for affordable housing in the Manhattan core.

Kimmelman’s endorsement should carry weight at DCP, however. DCP director Amanda Burden prides herself on her commitment to urban design and she took Kimmelman on a tour of the South Bronx for his inaugural article as architecture critic. If anyone can persuade Burden to act boldly, it might be him.

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Pedestrian Burdens: Sidewalk Atrocities in Bensonhurst, LIC, and Vinegar Hill

At 295 Avenue P, in Bensonhurst, surface parking takes up the entire ground floor. Photo: Joseph Kodransky

Here they are: the first set of reader-submitted “pedestrian burdens,” courtesy of Michael Kodransky, co-author of ITDP’s recent report on European parking policy innovations.

In this photo series, Streetsblog is cataloging the parking lots and garages that erode New York’s pedestrian realm, whether through blank walls, repeated curb cuts or unsightly structures. City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden is committed to making New York City a paragon of good urban design, but all too frequently new development makes the city more hostile to pedestrians. Burden’s planning department bears responsibility. The agency continues to defend parking minimums across most of the city, and the resulting proliferation of space for car storage is fundamentally incompatible with the walkable urbanism that Burden wants to foster.

Not all of the pedestrian-unfriendly buildings showcased in this series are the direct result of parking minimums, but they show the kind of urban design that parking minimums cause, and they illustrate how the planning department is failing to stand up for a quality walking environment.

Bensonhurst’s 295 Avenue P, shown above, is the result of a developer who needed no help from the city to build a terrible pedestrian environment. To walk into the building, you have to pass through the surface lot that wraps it on two sides. The building faces West 3rd Street with a low, blank brick wall meant only to enclose the surface lot. With 24 ground-floor parking spaces for its 20 residential units, including all that parking was the developer’s prerogative. But even an enlightened builder wouldn’t have come up with something much better. The city required ten parking spaces, and the most cost-effective option is to put them on the ground floor.

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Pedestrian Burdens: Send Us Pics of the Parking Garages Killing Your Street

At 1 Morningside Drive, parking minimums forced the construction of a 148-space garage. The developers put the parking on the ground floor, creating a blank wall facing a busy pedestrian street. Photo: Noah Kazis

Get your cameras ready, Streetsbloggers. It’s time to show Department of City Planning Director Amanda Burden what city-mandated parking garages are doing to the streets in your neighborhood.

In most of New York, it’s illegal to build anything of a certain size without a certain amount of parking, thanks to 1960s-era mandates in the city zoning code. Despite ample research showing that parking minimums encourage car ownership and cause traffic, DCP claims otherwise and clings to the position that these mandates are necessary.

Traffic isn’t the only cost of parking minimums, and under Burden DCP has at least acknowledged two other important ways they harm the city. Parking minimums increase the cost of housing, as the commissioner has stated, and parking on the ground floor erodes the pedestrian environment.

In some areas, DCP is beginning to rewrite the city’s archaic zoning regulations to try and prevent parking from taking the place of ground-floor retail, lobbies, stoops, and other uses that connect buildings to the sidewalk. On Brooklyn’s Fourth Avenue, where a 2003 rezoning led to a wave of development with ground floors dominated by ventilation ducts and even surface parking, DCP reversed course. In June, the department put out new rules forbidding curb cuts across the sidewalk, barring parking along the ground floor street frontage and encouraging retail uses. A draft rewrite of the parking regulations for much of Manhattan would eliminate a key incentive to build ground floor parking. In these select locations, Amanda Burden is making good on her widely-touted commitment to quality urban design.

Most of the city isn’t so lucky, however. In Upper Manhattan and the outer boroughs, parking is required in new developments. In practice, because developers often find it impractical to build underground parking, that often means the city is reserving ground floors for parking. Instead of new development fostering an engaging public realm, pedestrians encounter blank walls and curb cuts. The good news is that DCP is in the process of revising parking regulations for the “inner ring” of neighborhoods around the Manhattan core, which presents an excellent opportunity to stop forcing these dead spaces on neighborhoods everywhere.

Writing about parking regulations can get dry, so Streetsblog is going to start making the case visually. We need your help for our new photo series: “Pedestrian Burdens.”

Send us pictures of buildings in your neighborhood where parking harms pedestrian space, whether it’s a ground-floor garage, an egregious curb cut, or an ugly surface lot. Bonus points for buildings covered by parking minimums (larger buildings in Upper Manhattan or the other four boroughs) and built during the Bloomberg administration. Email your photos to tips@streetsblog.org and make sure to include the address of the buildings. We’ll feature the best on Streetsblog, building a visual case for Amanda Burden and DCP to act decisively on this critical urban design issue.

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Flawed DCP Studies Might Undermine DCP’s Own Parking Reforms

What appears to be an internal rift within the Department of City Planning could disrupt attempts to reform the city’s parking policies for the Manhattan core, in the face of opposition from the powerful real estate industry.

The research on parking coming out of Amanda Burden's planning department has serious flaws. Will sloppy studies undercut promising reforms brewing inside DCP? Image: Wikipedia

Streetsblog reported yesterday that DCP is preparing significant revisions to parking policies in the Manhattan core. Limits on parking in Manhattan are a decades-old cornerstone of the city’s traffic management policies, but developers know how to game the rules and take advantage of loopholes, leading to the construction of large new garages in some of the most walkable neighborhoods in the country. Parking experts praised DCP’s reform package for tightening the rules and laying out an updated approach to parking policy appropriate for a dense urban setting.

Those plans are still just a draft, however, and DCP’s final proposal could look much different. The powerful real estate industry is mobilizing against not only the proposed reforms, but existing parking limits as well. Meanwhile, factions within DCP seem intent on undermining the draft parking reforms, while the top of the department appears rudderless on the issue. Lately the City Planning Commission has issued a handful of pronouncements about the relevance of parking policy to a good pedestrian environment, but Planning Chair Amanda Burden has yet to make a sustained public stand on matters of off-street parking.

Any adjustment to the city’s parking rules must go through the City Council, where the influence of the real estate industry will be felt. And the industry’s lobbying arm, the Real Estate Board of New York, wants to undo parking limits already in effect in Manhattan.

Currently, developers of new housing can’t attach parking to more than 20 percent of residences below 60th Street or 35 percent of residences below West 110th and East 96th Streets. “We would like to see those maximums raised to accommodate the auto ownership in those neighborhoods,” said Mike Slattery, senior vice president for REBNY. A more detailed set of real estate industry recommendations drafted by the law firm Kramer Levin [PDF] opposes most, but not all, of the draft parking reforms currently circulating inside DCP.

Interestingly, REBNY’s rationale for opposing parking maximums echoes DCP’s own studies. Borrowing a line from DCP’s 2009 residential parking study, Slattery argued that car ownership is independent of parking supply and instead determined mainly by household income. The implication is that parking maximums only lead to parking shortages, not to reduced car ownership and driving.

The argument is faulty (more on that below), yet DCP itself continues to perpetuate it. Despite the department’s forward-thinking draft proposal to reform parking policies in the Manhattan core, not everyone seems to be on board. The department’s transportation division houses a faction determined to provide the city with a steady supply of new parking spaces, even in the heart of Manhattan. The division is at work on a new study of public parking in the Manhattan core, and a draft recently obtained by Streetsblog [PDF] mainly serves to justify the need for more parking.

The presentation on the parking study [PDF] states: “Vehicle registrations in all of Manhattan increased 39 percent between 1982 and 2009, despite the 1982 policy to reduce parking.” Like Slattery, DCP’s transportation division is arguing that parking maximums do not, in fact, reduce car ownership. It’s the mirror image of previous claims from DCP that parking minimums do not induce car ownership. The argument is also riddled with flaws.

Parking construction is mandated uptown, so it’s completely improper for DCP to lump vehicle registrations inside the Manhattan core together with registrations outside the core. “This is, near as I can tell, an example of the sloppy nature of these studies. They’re fast and loose with their definitions to support the points they want to get to,” said Dave King, a planning professor at Columbia University. “There’s still hundreds of thousands of people north of Central Park who are all subject to parking minimums.”

Rachel Weinberger, a University of Pennsylvania planning professor, noted that the actual change in car ownership in the Manhattan core is consistent with the assertion that the parking maximums have worked.

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NYC Agencies Take Home EPA’s Top Honors For Smart Growth

Photo: Kyle Gradinger/Bike Coalition

Innovative street designs including the Ninth Avenue bike lane helped NYC claim the EPA's award for overall excellence in smart growth. Photo: Kyle Gradinger/Bike Coalition of Greater Philadelphia

NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden were down in D.C. yesterday to accept the Environmental Protection Agency’s annual “Overall Excellence in Smart Growth” award. The EPA highlighted four PlaNYC-related initiatives for recognition: NYC DOT’s Street Design Manual, the city’s Active Design Guidelines, City Planning’s Food Retail Expansion to Support Health (FRESH) program, and the zoning amendment that passed in 2009 requiring new apartments and offices to include bike parking.

At a time when some local elected officials are raring to tear out pedestrian safety improvements and erase bike lanes, New York’s new street designs are receiving honors as nationally significant innovations. In the award announcement, the EPA singled out the city’s construction of more than 20 miles of protected bike lanes as an example of “implementing world-class street designs that support multi-modal transportation and help achieve environmental and other community goals.”

The EPA has given out smart growth awards in several categories since 2002. Stay tuned for more on yesterday’s winners from Tanya Snyder at Streetsblog Capitol Hill.

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New East River Ferry Service to Launch in May

Photo: Heath Brandon via Flickr.

Photo: Heath Brandon via Flickr.

Big news from today’s Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance conference: a new city-subsidized ferry service will begin crossing the East River in May. City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden announced that the new service will run for at least two years, departing at least every fifteen minutes during rush hour.

Making the ferry service possible, said Burden, were the series of rezonings that have spurred growth along the transit-poor waterfront, creating a pool of potential customers. Accordingly, the service will begin by serving Hunters Point South, Greenpoint, North Williamsburg, South Williamsburg, Fulton Ferry, and both Downtown and Midtown Manhattan.

We’ll bring you more information about the ferry plans as it becomes available.

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Applications for Special Parking Permits Keep Rolling in to City Planning

City Planning needs to decide whether to legalize this parking garage make its illegal extra cars

City Planning will decide whether to let this 44th Street parking garage buck the Clean Air Act and store 90 more cars than currently allowed by law. Image: Google Street View.

With two days until the City Planning Commission votes on the parking-heavy Riverside Center mega-project, the commissioners had a chance yesterday to ask any final questions about the project before the vote. As it happened, they didn’t bring up parking at that section of the meeting, but parking was a hot topic elsewhere on the commission’s agenda, including a pair of requests for special permits to build more parking below 60th Street.

First up, though, was an example of more enlightened planning: Courtlandt Crescent, slated to be the next development in the South Bronx’s much-heralded Melrose Commons revitalization project. This 217-apartment project, which will also house a 10,000 square foot child-care center, will include 29 spaces for cars, according to Department of City Planning staffer Vineeta Mathur. Courtlandt Crescent will also have parking for 110 bicycles.

When planning commission member Angela Battaglia wondered why there was so little car parking included, chair Amanda Burden responded, “It’s expensive. As you know, it would affect the affordability.” Battaglia then agreed that the affordability levels were indeed admirable.

Next was a request for a special permit to build a 42-space garage on the ground floor of a downtown office building. The building, located at the corner of Water and Broad Streets, is going to be the new home of the New York Daily News, and the News is requesting the garage so that its reporters and photographers can quickly get in a car and drive off to cover a story, according to DCP’s Grace Han. The garage would convert an existing loading bay and an under-used mailroom.

The desire to use ground floor space for a parking garage stands in sharp contrast to the Downtown Alliance’s new vision for Water Street, which calls for remaking the entire length of the corridor to put pedestrians first and revitalize street life. That vision has started to take shape with a DOT pedestrian plaza at Water and Whitehall Streets [PDF].

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Public Tells Planning Commission They Want a Walkable Riverside Center

Image: Extell Development.

The drawings released by Extell Development don't draw attention to the blank walls and curb cuts that would disrupt the sidewalk at Riverside Center.

A hearing on the Riverside Center mega-development yesterday revealed a popular hunger for a more walkable West Side and perhaps some interest from the City Planning Commission in the same. Extell Development is looking to build a housing and retail complex, including 1,800 parking spaces, on this waterfront site equivalent in size to two Manhattan blocks. Public testimony called for a slew of urban design improvements to their plan, including reducing the amount of off-street parking, integrating the site with the surrounding streetscape, and working towards burying the elevated Miller Highway.

As chair Amanda Burden and the other commissioners now deliberate over the approvals the project needs, they have the power to determine whether this block on Manhattan’s West Side will be dominated by the automobile or develop into a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood, in line with the goals of PlaNYC.

Efforts to better integrate Riverside Center with the surrounding neighborhood and streetscape got the most play yesterday. In Extell’s plans for the project, retail faces the inside of the development and passersby would see largely blank walls rising from the sidewalk, with the streets sloping down to the waterfront and the buildings stationed on an elevated platform. That wall would be interrupted by a slew of curb cuts to enter Extell’s proposed 1,800-space parking garage and auto showroom and service center.

“The development turns its back on the street,” said Brian Cook, the land use director for Borough President Scott Stringer. “It systematically ignores the rich context of the area,” explained Community Board 7 chair Mel Wymore.

The City Planning Commission appeared receptive to this critique. “Does one see an auto showroom as something that enlivens the edge of the project?” Burden asked Extell president Gary Barnett after he testified. “What is going to energize the sidewalk and the street life at the front of this project?”

Other commissioners pressed the developers and architects about the effect of driveways, retail, stairways, and platforms on the pedestrian environment. The developer, in turn, outlined a few minor steps to address the issue, such as changing a staircase to 59th Street into a slope.

But one underlying cause of the streetlife-deadening platform is the excessive amount of parking that Extell is seeking to build, according to Ethel Sheffer, a CB 7 member and former president of the New York American Planning Association chapter. The platform “is there in large part because it satisfies an extensive request of 1,800 parking spaces on two levels,” she said.

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