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Posts from the Christine Berthet Category


Developers Adding More Parking Than They’re Supposed To, Thanks to DCP

For years, the City Planning Commission approved special permits that let developers in Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea get around limits on parking construction in the Manhattan core. Recently, the city implemented a new formula that reformers hoped would curtail these permits. But Community Board 4, Council Member Corey Johnson, and Borough President Gale Brewer say the city’s math is flawed, resulting in too much new parking. They’re asking the Department of City Planning to come up with a better measuring stick.

The city's rules allow buildings like this to exceed Manhattan parking regulations. Rendering: Related Companies and Zaha Hadid Architects

Luxury condos are securing exemptions to the Manhattan parking cap established in response to the Clean Air Act. Rendering: Related Companies and Zaha Hadid Architects

Since 1982, new buildings south of West 110th Street and East 96th Street have been subject to parking maximums established in response to the Clean Air Act.

But in practice, the city allows exceptions. If developers want to build more parking than allowed, they can apply for a special permit. For a long time, the city reflexively granted these permits for new buildings on the West Side, leading to the addition of thousands of parking spaces that otherwise wouldn’t have been built.

Then the city revised its Manhattan parking regulations in 2013, with DCP issuing new guidelines for developers looking for exemptions from parking maximums [PDF]. Has the new policy made a difference? Apparently not.

The city now requires developers seeking special permits to measure trends in the area over the past decade, by calculating changes in the number of residences and parking spaces within one-third of a mile of the project. Echoing the parking maximums in the law, DCP aims for there to be 20 percent as many new parking spaces as there are new apartments south of 59th Street. On the Upper East Side and Upper West Side, the ratio is 35 percent.

If the extra spaces being requested push that ratio above the target, it’s likely the permit will be denied. If the ratio stays below the target, the city is likely to approve the permit.

It sounds scientific, but by only looking at new development and new parking, DCP rigs the game.

For years, neighborhoods like Hell’s Kitchen and West Chelsea had lots of extra parking but little new residential development. In the past decade, that’s changed. As a result, City Planning’s numbers show the number of new apartments far outpacing the supply of new parking spaces. This opens the door for lots of special permits to get the parking ratio up to the department’s 20 percent target, but ignores the fact that the neighborhood had lots of parking to begin with.

“They are missing a very fundamental element of the calculation,” said CB 4 Chair Christine Berthet. “It’s broken. It clearly doesn’t work.”

Read more…


Hudson River Park Trust’s Pier 57 Will Add to Car/Bike Greenway Conflicts

Plans for Pier 57 include a two-lane driveway, in teal, separated from 11th Avenue by the Hudson River Greenway, in light green. Red arrows, added by Streetsblog, indicate crossings planned for 17th, 16th and 14th Streets. Image: Philip Habib and Associates

A plan from the Hudson River Park Trust to transform Pier 57 into a retail and food market will add 75 parking spaces and a two-lane driveway to the park between 17th and 14th Streets, creating new points of conflict where people biking on the Hudson River Greenway will have to contend with cars crossing the path.

The crossings will have traffic signals with separate phases for cyclists and drivers, and will include speed tables to bring crossing vehicles up to greenway level. Crossings at 14th Street, where traffic exits the driveway, and 16th Street, where southbound 11th Avenue drivers will use a dedicated turn lane to access the driveway, will both have speed tables.

The widest crossing, at 17th Street, where the Chelsea Piers driveway ends and the Pier 57 driveway will begin, will not have a speed table.

“At the end of the day, having any driveways crossing the greenway is a safety problem,” said Noah Budnick of Transportation Alternatives. As an alternative to adding new crossings on the Greenway, Budnick pointed to the Goldman Sachs driveway on West Street between Murray and Vesey Streets, where the bikeway and sidewalk run between the street-side driveway and the building entrance.

The Pier 57 project also includes 75 parking spaces on the basement level of the pier, with access from the driveway across the sidewalk. “There’s no need for parking there,” Budnick said, adding that it will only serve to generate traffic and “increase the number of people driving across the greenway.”

The Pier 57 spaces will not be open to the public and instead will be reserved for those with business at the pier, according to Christine Berthet, co-chair of Community Board 4’s transportation committee. “Contrast that with Chelsea Piers,” she said, with its large public parking garage.

Read more…


More Scenes from Park(ing) Day 2008 New York City

I biked from Park Slope to Chelsea this morning and managed to visit eight Park(ing) spots along the way. Here's what I found...


Four strangers engaged in an intense Scrabble game at the busy corner of Atlantic Ave. and Court St. in Downtown Brooklyn, my first stop.


The Park(ing) spot on Montague St. in Brooklyn Heights was jam packed with teenagers from St. Anne's on their lunch break. These two played Connect Four.



Separated Bike Path Isn’t Gay Enough for CB4

Manhattan Community Board 4's transportation committee unanimously approved DOT's plan to install a physically-separated bike path on Eighth Avenue in Lower Manhattan. The committee enthusiastically recommended the plan to the full board on Wednesday. The board then voted to ignore their own committee and block the plan. Apparently, some members feel that complete streets and safe bike infrastructure are somehow incompatible with the neighborhood's gay-friendly environment. Chelsea Now has the play-by-play:

Board member Allen Roskoff was more specific. “I refer to Eighth Ave. between 14th and 23rd Streets as ‘Gay Boulevard,’ he said. “Large numbers of gay people go there… It’s where we feel at home. … The atmosphere there—the restaurants, the activity, the people walking— it’s a home to many of us that no other avenue is. I don’t think these changes are for the positive in any way, shape or form.”

Which reminds me... Have you looked in to joining your local Community Board lately? This kind of thing is going to keep happening until either the Community Board system is overhauled or we get more Ian Dutton's, Christine Berthet's and Teresa Toro's serving on local boards.

The DOT's plan for a pilot project on Eighth Avenue, which can be downloaded here, mirrors the complete street redesign of Ninth Avenue one block to the west. The Eighth Avenue bike lane also runs through part of CB2, which unanimously approved the project last month.

It's also worth noting that outcry against the bike lane at CB4 was not at all universal and that Community Boards only have advisory power. DOT can go ahead with the project with or without the board's support. Again, from Chelsea Now:

Board member David Hanzel observed that “walking down Ninth Ave., I think it’s an improved experience.” He said there’s less traffic, fewer cars making sharp turns, and it’s “more of a leisurely stroll now.”

Hanzel was seconded by longtime member Bob Trentlyon, who observed that the discussion was the “most retro conversation I’ve heard at a board meeting in a long time. … There must be two Ninth Aves., because the Ninth Ave. I see, the traffic is moving very smoothly along… There are no businesses that have gone out of business since this has happened; there are more people starting to use the bike lanes.”


Streetfilms: What’s an LPI?

A leading pedestrian interval, or LPI, lights up the pedestrian signal a few seconds before vehicular traffic gets the green. This gives pedestrians a head start into the intersection and makes it less likely that they will be hit by vehicles turning into the crosswalk. LPI's are also known by their sassier nickname, Pedestrian Head Start. But in my view the best variation on what LPI stands for comes from Christine Berthet of the Hell's Kitchen Neighborhood Association, who proposes "Life Preserving Interval."

Transportation Alternatives has recently begun a push to make these more common in New York City. Here's hoping our video (featuring some nice visuals from TOPP's own Carly Clark) can help argue the case.


City Council Signs Off on 400-Car Garage in Hell’s Kitchen

10th.jpgLast week, the New York City Council approved a special permit granting developer Glenwood Management the right to build a 400-car parking garage at 310-328 West 38th Street. The decision was not unexpected, as the permit had already been approved by the City Planning Commission earlier this month.

The garage, situated near the mouth of the Lincoln Tunnel, will add more traffic to the already-congested streets of Hell's Kitchen, but its approval has strengthened calls to review similar permits more carefully in the future. "There are some positives," said Christine Berthet of the Clinton/Hell's Kitchen Pedestrian Safety Coalition (CHEKPEDS) in an email message. "The Borough President's office, the City Planning Commission, and the council all have special permits on their radar, and the commission indicated they are ready to do 'something about parking.' The Speaker is also interested in a long term action."

As a 2005 re-zoning leads to a surge in development around the West Side railyards, adopting stricter standards for the approval of special permits could prevent a concurrent boom in parking. The leniency of the current approval process, said Berthet, flies in the face of the city's goals for air quality and traffic reduction, and approving a flurry of permits now would saddle the neighborhood with parking facilities for years. "The special permit is like radioactive material," she said. "It remains toxic for a very long time."

Photo of traffic on 10th Avenue: SarahNYC/Flickr


“Don’t Block the Box” Bill Clears Albany

With 2800 agents able to enforce rules against blocking the box, drivers may soon take these signs seriously.

A bill intended to step up enforcement against drivers who block the box made it through the state legislature last Thursday. While the measure is not expected to play a major role in traffic reduction, it should improve conditions for pedestrians and residents on some of New York's most congested streets, as long as agents follow through on strict enforcement.

The bill reclassifies blocking the box from a moving violation to a parking violation, a switch that enables all 2800 of the city's traffic agents to issue citations for the offense. Previously, only cops and a small number of agents had that ability. The bill also bumps up the penalty from $50 to $115.

In a 2006 study conducted by Borough President Scott Stringer's office [PDF], more than 3,000 blocking the box violations were observed at 10 locations in Manhattan during a single nine-hour period, but no driver received a ticket.

At the worst locations -- near the entrances to the Lincoln and Holland tunnels -- box-blocking vehicles clog the crosswalk constantly during peak hours. "That is a huge part of complaints on Varick Street and Broome Street, where pedestrians can't get across the intersection," said Ian Dutton of the Community Board 2 transportation committee, which passed a resolution in favor of the bill last Tuesday. "This is a beginning step to make the enforcement more comprehensive."


City Planning Commission Approves 400-Car Garage for Hell’s Kitchen


Two weeks ago Streetsblog reported on the glut of public parking garages being built in Hell's Kitchen, which threatens to worsen traffic conditions in one of New York's most congested neighborhoods. The City Planning Commission could have set a precedent last Friday by denying a developer's request to build a 400-car public garage as part of a mixed-use project at 310-328 West 38th Street. Only 232 parking spaces would have been allowed without the special permit.

Instead, the commission approved the request. Despite the objections of community representatives, the only restriction imposed was to reserve most of the spaces for monthly parking. In its report [PDF], the commission asserts that streets near the new building "will be adequate to handle the traffic" generated by the garage. The analysis fails to consider the aggregate amount of parking in Hell's Kitchen, and flies in the face of DOT's efforts to improve the neighborhood's streets for pedestrians, says Christine Berthet of the Clinton/Hell's Kitchen Pedestrian Safety Coalition (CHEKPEDS).

"It's particularly egregious considering what we know about 37th Street," which carries cars heading toward the outbound Lincoln Tunnel, she adds. "The mitigation proposed as monthly parking demonstrates they have no clue on the science of parking, as monthly parking attracts commuters and discourages shoppers -- the worst case scenario."


Hell’s Parking Lot

More parking, more problems: A garage proposed for 38th Street would disgorge even more cars onto the intersection of 37th and Ninth during peak hours.

If there's one thing a neighborhood overrun by traffic doesn't need, it's more public parking garages. But that's exactly what New Yorkers who live by the mouth of the Lincoln Tunnel will get if the City Planning Commission allows current development patterns to continue.

Case in point: In January, the developer Glenwood Management requested permission to build a 400-car parking garage attached to a new residential property in Hell's Kitchen. The application -- for 310-328 West 38th Street -- is the latest in a string of special permit requests to build parking in the area. It is currently pending before the City Planning Commission, which is scheduled to render a decision on June 6th. If the commission turns down the application, it could signal an important shift in the ongoing redevelopment of Hell’s Kitchen, which has seen a wave of new construction since a 2005 rezoning took effect.

The last time Streetsblog looked at the parking situation in Hell's Kitchen, local activists were fighting a provision in the new zoning that enabled substantially greater quantities of accessory parking -- spaces intended for building residents or commercial tenants. That battle is still playing out in court. The recent rash of permit requests represents another front in the effort to keep cars from overwhelming the neighborhood's streets.

A number of new buildings include plans for parking that exceed the amount allowed for residents. Glenwood Management, for instance, is only permitted to build 232 spaces for residents -- 114 under the pre-2005 zoning, according to local activists. The additional spaces will then be used by the developer as a public garage. At issue throughout Hell's Kitchen, in essence, is whether the city will allow developers to include public parking garages in new buildings without restriction.

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Streetfilm: Transforming NY City Streets

Streetfilms' Elizabeth Press was in attendance this week at the New York Historical Society where neighborhood activists, professional planners, and experienced advocates gathered to share their secrets on how New Yorkers can transform the public realm. The event was hosted by NYC Streets Renaissance and was moderated by Streetsblog editor Aaron Naparstek.

Panelists included:

Here are some highlights.