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City Council’s Zeal for Affordable Housing Crumbles If It Means Less Parking

On Tuesday, members of the City Council hammered the de Blasio administration for not guaranteeing enough housing units for low-income New Yorkers in new construction. But yesterday, when the topic turned to building more affordable housing by reducing parking requirements, several Council members lost their zeal for housing and worried more about car storage.

The mayor is proposing the elimination of parking requirements in new affordable housing projects within the designated "transit zone," in purple: Image: DCP

The proposed “transit zone” where parking requirements for subsidized housing would no longer apply. Image: DCP

The hearing yesterday was about the City Hall proposal called “Zoning for Quality and Affordability,” or ZQA for short. One exciting aspect of ZQA is that it would reduce mandatory parking minimums for subsidized housing in a large swath of the city — freeing up space and resources to house people instead of cars. It’s not as exciting as eliminating all parking minimums everywhere, but it’s the single largest reform proposed for the city’s parking requirements in a long time.

Yesterday, Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been and City Planning Commission Chair Carl Weisbrod answered questions from council members about ZQA. The same chamber that the day before was so passionate about providing sufficient housing for less affluent New Yorkers suddenly seemed willing to compromise the construction of affordable residences in order to preserve the guaranteed construction of parking.

Following the lead of community boards, most council members who spoke yesterday seemed convinced that reducing parking requirements would be a burden on their constituents. Several of them wanted to keep their districts out of the “transit zone,” the area where parking requirements would no longer apply to subsidized housing. They often cited the inadequacy of transit in their districts as a reason to oppose the parking reforms, even though parking requirements make surface transit worse by pumping more traffic onto the streets.

Been and Weisbrod repeatedly emphasized that the overwhelming majority of parking spots in subsidized housing developments are unused. “We’re not saying that, in a given area, a housing provider can’t provide parking to its residents,” Weisbrod said. “We’re simply saying that we shouldn’t require it when we know and they know that it wouldn’t be utilized and those funds could better be used for other purposes — for affordable housing and, even more importantly, the space could be used for either affordable housing or open space or other community amenities.”

A major question going forward is whether City Hall and the council will water down the parking reforms before a vote on ZQA. If that happens, there will be no vote and no public record of council members’ positions on the proposal as it exists today. So here’s a record of what City Council members said about parking minimums at the hearing.

Zoning and Franchises Committee Chair Donovan Richards (Southeast Queens) 

Photo: NYC Council

“In Queens you can get to Florida by plane just as quickly as you can get to Manhattan,” said Richards. While questioning Been and Weisbrod, he suggested that some neighborhoods in the transit zones did not have “reliable” transportation options. “Certainly there would be some adverse impacts on some of the particular transit zones you’ve presented,” he said. “So this is a continuous conversation but we’re certainly hoping that you’re open to refining some of the transit zones as we move forward.”

Read more…

Streetsblog.net
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Where Are the Best Places for Protected Intersections in Your City?

How a protected intersection could fit into the Portland streetscape. Image: Nick Falbo via Bike Portland

How a protected intersection could fit into the Portland streetscape. Image: Nick Falbo via Bike Portland

Protected intersections are the best new thing in American bike infrastructure since, well, protected bike lanes. They greatly reduce the potential for turning conflicts between drivers and cyclists — left turns on a bike, especially, become easier and less stressful — and they make pedestrian crossings much safer too.

So far, a few cities around the country have raced to install their first protected intersection, but the design is still very rare. That means there are a ton of opportunities in American cities to create safer and more inviting intersections for biking and walking.

Which locations could benefit from protected intersections? Here’s a fun exercise courtesy of Nick Falbo, a key figure in the introduction of this design in the U.S. Michael Andersen at Bike Portland says Falbo sketched out what six sites in the city would look like with protected intersections:

Nick Falbo, who works as a senior planner for Alta Planning and Design but did this project as a volunteer on his own time, said he got the idea to create them after he gave a presentation about protected intersections at a conference last fall. A city employee who was attending, he said, asked where in Portland protected intersections could go.

“I’m thinking, like, where can’t they go?” he said.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Flatbed Truck Driver Kills Maria Minchala, 63, in Washington Heights (NewsPost)
  • Mark-Viverito SOTC to Touch On Land Use, Parks After Dark Rules (Politico)
  • Stringer Warns of City Budget Gap, Cites Devalued Medallions, NYPD Overtime (Politico, Gazette)
  • Q44 SBS Ticket Machines Out of Service for Over Two Weeks, MTA Blames Con Ed (NY1)
  • Streetcar: Constantinides Psyched, Simotas Circumspect, LIC Partnership on Board (Times Ledger)
  • CB 3 Wants DOT to Reroute Traffic on Broome Street Because of Trucks (DNA)
  • Carroll Gardens Motorists Think a Mid-Block Stop Sign Is Weird, So They Ignore It (Bklyn Paper)
  • Heads Up, NYPD: EMTs Will Patrol Flushing Meadows-Corona Park on “Ambulance Bikes” (DNA)
  • Christie MIA as NJ Transit Workers, Without a Contract for Five Years, Poised to Strike (WNYC)
  • SI Electeds and Media Concerned With Anything Other Than Traffic Violence (Advance 1, 2)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

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The Key for Park Slope to Keep Its Big Grocery Store: Less Parking

pslope_keyfood

The Park Slope Key Food site. Image: Avery Hall Investments via DNAinfo

The notion that New York City housing construction shouldn’t be weighed down by mandatory parking minimums got a combative response from some City Council members at a hearing today. Streetsblog will have a thorough round-up of who said what tomorrow morning. In the meantime, here’s a quick detour to Park Slope for a related story about how parking rules everything around us.

At issue is the redevelopment of a 36,000-square-foot Key Food and adjacent parking lot by Fifth Avenue in north Park Slope. The store sells groceries at affordable prices and is an emblem of the organizing that helped turn around the neighborhood in the 1970s and 80s. Replacing it is a big deal.

In addition to about 400 locals, Council Member Brad Lander, Borough President Eric Adams, and Public Advocate Tish James were on hand for the meeting last night where developer Avery Hall Investments presented its plan, DNAinfo reports. The project would consist of 165 apartments, ground floor retail, a car-free “piazza” between two new buildings — and 182 underground parking spots (the site currently has about 100 surface spaces).

The aspect that has people most up in arms is the smaller size of the replacement grocery store. It would only be 7,500 square feet, about one-fifth the size of the Key Food.

As Stephen Smith pointed out on Twitter, you can swap in a much bigger grocery store if you lose some parking:

Read more…

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Hit-and-Run Driver Kills 16-Year-Old Girl on 40 MPH Queens Speedway

The speed limit is 40 on the segment of Sunrise Highway where a hit-and-run driver killed a 16-year-old girl. Image: Google Maps

The speed limit is 40 miles per hour on the segment of Sunrise Highway where a hit-and-run driver killed a 16-year-old girl. Image: Google Maps

A hit-and-run driver killed a teenage girl in Rosedale early Wednesday morning.

The 16-year-old victim was crossing Sunrise Highway at Francis Lewis Boulevard in the crosswalk at around 12:15 a.m. when she was hit by the driver of a van, who was traveling east on the highway, according to Gothamist. The Daily News reported that the vehicle was a dollar van.

The girl was pronounced dead at Jamaica Hospital. Police had not released her identity as of Wednesday afternoon, and no arrests had been made, NYPD told Streetsblog.

WCBS reported that the speed limit on Francis Lewis Boulevard is 25 miles per hour, but it’s 40 mph on Sunrise Highway.

Krystina Tucker and her 5-year-old daughter cross there almost every day, CBS2’s Janelle Burrell reported.

“I’ve had a couple incidents where I’m almost hit walking with her to school,” Tucker said.

“They just fly around it [the turn] … there’s cars stopped at the light, they don’t want to wait.”

Another local said motorists often speed on Sunrise, making it more dangerous to cross.

“You have to stop and look around otherwise to cross someone is going to kill you,” [Jean] Charles said.

Even with the crossing light, residents say getting across the four lanes of traffic and the median can be difficult.

“Because it’s so wide, by the time you reach halfway in the road the light’s amber so you have to run to get across,” said Shelline McCook.

Read more…

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If You Want to Buy a Car in Japan…

If you want to buy a car in Japan, first you have to prove that you have somewhere to park it. That’s one of the policies Streetfilms encountered while interviewing experts for an upcoming three-part series on parking best practices.

Here’s a sneak peek courtesy of Streetfilms correspondent Joe Baur, who grabbed this interview about the costs of car ownership in Japan with Byron Kidd from Tokyo By Bike.

The parking requirement is one of several policies that helps keep cars from overrunning Japanese cities. Factor in yearly taxes, high parking fees, and tolled roads, and Japan does an excellent job of ensuring that car owners pay the full costs of their vehicles — while the first-rate transit system enables people to get around efficiently.

Stay tuned for the full parking series later this year.

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Vance Drops Right of Way Charge Against Truck Driver Who Killed Senior

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance dropped a Right of Way Law charge against a truck driver who killed a senior on the Upper East Side.

On the afternoon of October 10, 2014, Victor Hernandez hit 86-year-old Peter Romano with a Coca-Cola truck while making a right turn at the corner of Third Avenue and E. 96th Street, according to reports.

“The driver wanted to keep going, people had to tell him to stop,” witness Edwin Rios, told the Post. “People were yelling please stop, please stop.”

Police said Romano was in the crosswalk and was crossing with the signal. On October 11, the NYPD Highway Division announced that the driver was arrested for failing to yield.

Vance’s office conducted a 15-month investigation of the crash. Last week, prosecutors dropped their case against Hernandez without taking it to trial.

According to Vance’s office, prosecutors said in court that Hernandez was not using his phone at the time of the crash and was not impaired. Prosecutors told the court that Hernandez stopped at the light and that several people crossed in front of his truck before he proceeded to turn.

In explaining their decision to drop the case, prosecutors said they believed Hernandez’s visibility was hindered due to the truck’s design and because the victim was 5’5” tall. Prosecutors noted that Hernandez did not leave the scene, and said they could not conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that he was not exercising due care when he ran over Romano.

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A Vote for Parking Minimums Is a Vote to Keep the Rent Too Damn High

Photo: Google Street View

Mandatory parking minimums add construction costs, restrict the supply of housing, and help put rents out of reach. Photo: Google Street View

[Editor’s note: With the City Council debating potential reforms to the city’s parking mandates today, we’re republishing this piece that originally ran in December. Stay tuned for coverage of the hearing later today.]

Jimmy McMillan may have retired from politics, but the rent is still too damn high and New York City’s mandatory parking minimums are a major reason why.

That’s because parking costs a lot of money to build and takes up a lot of space. With city rules requiring parking in new construction, New York ends up with higher rents and less housing to go around than would otherwise be the case.

The de Blasio administration has proposed doing away with parking minimums for subsidized housing near transit. Predictably, a lot of community boards still want to compel the construction of parking spaces, even if the city knows most of them will go unused.

Members of the City Council, which will negotiate the final rezoning plan with City Hall, are by and large on the fence about the proposed parking reforms. This is an issue Streetsblog has covered a lot over the past several years, so here are five reminders that a vote for parking minimums is a vote to make housing in New York City less affordable.

1. The Time Building a Project Without Parking Made It More Affordable

Navy Green is an affordable housing project in Fort Greene that consists of 458 homes, 75 percent of which will be affordable to households earning between 30 and 130 percent of the area median income. That level of affordability was possible because the project includes zero parking spots, developer Martin Dunn told Streetsblog.

Read more…

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Washington State GOP Claims a Scalp in the Name of Socialized Roads

Republicans in the Washington State Senate are sending a message: Don’t mess with our socialized highways. To show they’re serious about subsidizing roads, they ended the tenure of Washington DOT chief Lynn Peterson.

Lynn Peterson was ousted as head of Washington DOT last week by Senate Republicans for presiding over an effective, but unpopular tolling program. Photo via Seattle Transit Blog

Lynn Peterson was ousted as head of Washington DOT last week by Senate Republicans for presiding over an effective but unpopular tolling program. Photo via Seattle Transit Blog

Senate Republicans used their confirmation authority to give Peterson “one week notice” that she would be fired, as one Democrat put it.

Josh Feit at Publicola explains:

[State Senator Andy] Hill said it was “nothing personal” but the senate needed to use its “blunt instrument” (its confirmation powers) to “impose accountability” on an agency that was responsible for imposing unpopular tolls on I-405. “I have no confidence that this agency is in any position to fix the problems it has,” he said about an agency he accused of unfairly executing its tolling program.

Dan Ryan at Seattle Transit Blog says the tolls are actually working pretty well:

Notwithstanding its unpopularity with some SOV drivers (at least those who don’t use the lanes), it has been rather successful in managing traffic. Travel times in both the express and general purpose lanes are better, saving drivers 14 minutes in the express lanes and 7 minutes southbound in the regular lanes. Bus riders have seen improved speed and reliability. Community Transit riders save six minutes at peak times, while Metro riders are saving eight minutes. After just a few months, ridership is up 4% on CT, and 6% on Metro routes in the corridor.

Read more…

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Today’s Headlines

  • Hit-and-Run Driver Kills 16-Year-Old Girl in Rosedale (AMNY, News)
  • L Train: Pols Meet With MTA, Lentol Says Repairs Would Start No Earlier Than 2018 (News, 2AS)
  • Freemark: Streetcar Won’t Work If Motorists Have Lane Access (NYT); And They Would (PIX)
  • Sam Schwartz Talks Up BQX (NewsBklyn Paper)
  • Curbed Profiles Another Big Waterfront Development That Will Be Built Without the Streetcar
  • Van Bramer Holds Rally for 7 Train Riders, Who Have to Crowdsource Service Updates Online (News)
  • Brooklyn Eagle Covers Menchaca’s Cyclist LPI Bill
  • Bronx CB 8 Parks Committee Endorses Paving Putnam Trail (R’dale Press)
  • Another Reminder of What Free Curbside Parking Does to People (DNA)
  • Damn Bike Lanes (Post, Post)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA