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Posts from the "Seth Pinsky" Category

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Don’t Ask Seth Pinsky About NYCEDC Parking Development

“The worst thing we could do is create projects that create a parking need and then not provide that parking.”

Seth Pinsky. Photo: NYCEDC

That was Seth Pinsky, former head of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, in 2010. True to that philosophy, during his tenure NYCEDC incentivized and financed suburban-style parking in development projects in neighborhoods across the city, ensuring that local residents will be dealing with resulting motor vehicle traffic for years to come.

Having recently departed NYCEDC for the private sector, Pinsky sat for an interview with Nancy Scola at Next City. It’s a wide-ranging piece, and well worth a read.

Here’s Pinsky on NYCEDC and parking:

NC: What do you make of the critique that NYCEDC has focused on big development projects with a ton of parking, not necessarily places that people can walk to and that are well-integrated into the fabric of street life?

Pinsky: It’s a critique that in no way reflects the reality of the record. The fact is, if you look at the major development projects that the city has undertaken under Mayor Bloomberg, whether it’s in neighborhoods like Willets Point or Coney Island or St. George in Staten Island or Hudson Yards, the city has either developed these projects around excellent public transportation access or [has] actually invested in the public transportation that will be necessary to allow people to commute. Anyone who thinks that this has not been a public transit-friendly administration is either blind to reality or has some sort of alternative agenda to push.

Note that Pinsky avoids answering for the thousands of parking spaces that EDC under his watch shoehorned into neighborhoods that do, in fact, have excellent transit. Though he is asked explicitly about EDC parking development — once a point of pride for Pinsky — he never even says the word.

It’s true that NYCEDC’s record over the last several years speaks for itself. Even if Pinsky now won’t acknowledge it.

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NYC’s Top Parking Subsidizer, Seth Pinsky, Moves On

Seth Pinsky, whose legacy as head of the New York City Economic Development Corporation will be years of parking-induced traffic in city neighborhoods, with taxpayers footing the bill, is headed to the private sector.

Seth Pinsky. Photo: NYCEDC

The news came this morning, via announcements from City Hall and RXR Realty, which hired Pinsky.

During Pinsky’s five-year tenure, NYCEDC incentivized and financed the inclusion of suburban-style parking in development projects across the city, from Flushing to the Lower East Side, Downtown Brooklyn to Staten Island. The ethos that prioritized parking and attendant motor vehicle traffic for some of the densest neighborhoods in the most transit-rich city in America was summed up in a statement from Pinsky himself.

“The worst thing we could do,” Pinsky told Streetsblog in 2010, “is create projects that create a parking need and then not provide that parking.”

Outdated environmental review regulations factored into some of EDC’s parking-saturated developments. But there are plenty of examples of EDC-sponsored projects, large and small, that were the product of an autocentric mindset and plain old political patronage. To name a few:

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Bloomberg’s Resiliency Plan Calls for Permanent Bus, Ferry Expansion

Yesterday afternoon, Mayor Bloomberg unveiled a resiliency plan to better prepare New York for flooding due to climate change and severe storms. The report’s team, put together in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and led by Economic Development Corporation President Seth Pinsky, used the administration’s PlaNYC 2030 sustainability plan as the foundation for a sweeping set of resiliency-specific recommendations, covering everything from temporary bikeways to new landfill development on the East River.

Bloomberg's resiliency plan includes flashy real estate development projects and calls for the expansion of the city's bus and ferry network. Image: NYC.gov

The heart of the mayor’s plan would build levees and barriers at targeted locations, including the Rockaways, Staten Island, Coney Island, and Newtown Creek, to protect vulnerable areas from flooding. These barriers could offer opportunities for permanent esplanades and greenways for these neighborhoods.

While the levees only tangentially involve transportation, most of the plan’s transportation-specific initiatives didn’t receive marquee treatment in the mayor’s speech and are instead buried in the report. If implemented, however, they could be major components of both the city’s storm response and its permanent infrastructure.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, many New Yorkers took to bicycling and walking as the only reliable means of transit, but improved pedestrian and bike access was not part of the city’s response plan. The mayor’s new report recommends that DOT and NYPD be ready to deploy “temporary pedestrian and bicycle capacity” in the event of an emergency, including dedicated lanes leading to ferry terminals and the East River bridges, as well as on the bridges themselves, by the end of 2014.

After Hurricane Sandy, the city and state implemented temporary bus service while subways below 34th Street were without power. The plan calls on DOT to coordinate with the MTA and other agencies on the implementation of similar “bus bridges” or ferry links in case of emergency, as well as to investigate greater access for city residents to Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road, with the possibility of “cross-honoring” tickets in case of service disruption.

Like the bus connections, HOV-3 restrictions for vehicles entering the Manhattan central business district came after a day of crippling gridlock when many drivers drove to work alone. The report calls for a plan by the end of 2013 so the DOT, NYPD, and the Office of Emergency Management know when to implement HOV-3 restrictions in case of emergency and are able to quickly set up HOV-3 enforcement. (A bill from Council Members Deborah Rose and James Vacca is being introduced to the Public Safety committee today to require OEM to develop a broader emergency traffic management plan.)

In addition to temporary interventions during an emergency, the plan also has recommendations that would affect how New Yorkers travel on non-emergency days, most notably by devoting more road and highway space to buses.

The plan says the city will continue to expand the number of Select Bus Service routes. In addition to routes already in planning or development for Nostrand Avenue, 125th Street, Webster Avenue, Astoria Boulevard, and Woodhaven Boulevard, the report says that “over the next five years NYC DOT will work with the MTA to implement four additional SBS routes,” though it does not specify which routes are on track for implementation.

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Infrastructure Bigs: To Compete, NYC Needs Congestion Pricing, Tolls

Holland_Tunnel_tolls.jpgTolls at the Holland Tunnel. Now the Port Authority is looking for the next financing model. Image: Library of Congress.

At a panel put on by the New School last week, some of New York's biggest players in transportation and planning came together to discuss the future of the city's infrastructure. They all seemed to agree: The city can't keep up with its global competitors without new sources of revenue.

Christopher Ward, the executive director of the Port Authority, framed the stakes: "We have to ask, what builds wealth?" The other panelists concurred: New York's health and economic dominance won't continue without consistent investment in its infrastructure, particularly its transportation network.

Seth Pinsky, the president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, put it more directly. "We have spent the last 20 years trying to get our infrastructure back to pre-1970 levels," he said. Without moving further, "We will not be able to compete with other world cities."

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EDC Chief Seth Pinsky: Minimizing Parking “The Worst Thing We Could Do”

SethPinsky.pngSeth Pinsky, NYCEDC president. Image: NYCEDC.
The NYC Economic Development Corporation's predilection for suburban-style, parking-filled projects earned it last year's Streetsie for worst city agency. Well, now we've got some more insight into what makes EDC tick.

After an event at the New School last night, NYCEDC president Seth Pinsky told Streetsblog why his organization's projects include so many parking spaces. "The worst thing we could do," he said, "is create projects that create a parking need and then not provide that parking."

Predictions about "parking need," however, are consistently flawed. At one of the EDC's own projects, the Gateway Center in the Bronx, far more shoppers take transit than developers predicted, leaving the parking lot underutilized and creating a hostile environment for people who walk. In the words of parking guru Donald Shoup, "In trying to foretell the demand for parking, urban planners resemble the Wizard of Oz, deceived by his own tricks."

According to Pinsky, EDC takes its figures for parking demand straight from the legally-mandated environmental review process. So, some of the problem here is embedded in that process, which has prompted calls to revise local environmental review laws [PDF]. 

But more and more, EDC simply appears to be falling behind the times on planning policy. Just this week, the Health Department, City Planning, DDC, DOT, and the Office of Management and Budget released Active Design Guidelines advising planners to "design car parking so as to reduce unnecessary automobile travel, particularly when walking, bicycling, and public transit are convenient alternatives."

We have, supposedly, progressed beyond the era when city government equated traffic with economic activity. But while the rest of the city is trying to reduce the number of cars on the street and play to New York's inherent strengths as a walkable metropolis, EDC still seems intent on inducing more traffic and giving autos even more space than they need.