City Wants 20,000 New Parking Spaces in Hell’s Kitchen

It seems inconceivable given the overwhelmingly positive developments of the past few weeks, but the city wants to increase parking in Manhattan by some 20,000 spaces, and is defending itself in court for the right to do so.

The Bloomberg and Spitzer administrations are working together to hold on to a rezoning provision that would dramatically increase required parking inventory for new development in the Hudson Yards area on the far West Side. The parking plan is a holdover from the failed Jets stadium deal — and it’s illegal, according to the Hell’s Kitchen Neighborhood Association (HKNA) and others who have filed suit against Mayor Bloomberg, City Planning Director Amanda Burden, the MTA and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

The suit alleges that the parking requirements, adopted in 2005, are in violation of a 1982 agreement to keep the city in compliance with the Clean Air Act. Further, plaintiffs question the validity of the city’s environmental impact statement regarding planned development for the area.

For its part, the DEC is attempting to remove references to parking from its Clean Air Act State Implementation Plan (SIP). The state currently limits the amount of parking that can be attached to development below 60th Street, but the DEC says parking should not be considered part of the SIP since the city was not legally required to consider parking as part of its compliance strategy. Further, the DEC says parking falls under the jurisdiction of city planners, not state officials.

To justify itself and the city, the state is submitting reams of paperwork in an effort to prove carbon monoxide levels are declining. The HKNA and others reply that the air quality numbers are not specific to the far West Side and that they ignore ozone and particulates — all of which would be increased substantially from car trips generated by 20,000-plus additional parking spots.

And it should go without saying that while the city is on one hand claiming it can withstand such an environmental blow, Mayor Bloomberg’s campaign for congestion pricing — and indeed, most of PlaNYC itself — is based on the acknowledgment that the air New Yorkers breathe is dangerously polluted and carbon emissions must be curbed.

Nevertheless, the city is about to start soliciting bids for a massive underground parking deck, originally intended for car-driving Jets fans, that will house 950 cars and occupy six blocks.

The DEC held a hearing on its proposed SIP alteration last week, but officials didn’t show up, due to what was later described to Streetsblog as an "administrative error." The hearing is supposed to be rescheduled for sometime in July, and the comment period will remain open at least until then, according to the DEC’s Robert Bielawa.

The HKNA lawsuit, meanwhile, having been delayed by the city and state for two years, has recently entered the discovery phase.

Photo: midweekpost/Flickr 

  • Dan

    The planning processes in the city/state seem wildly out of touch both with contemporary ideas about civic government but master planning. I am constantly reminded of Robert Moses contempt for protesters, general arrogance, and the influence of large construction firms on planning decisions when I read about issues like these. Is this the legacy that moses left us, a generation(or more) later, a city government simply unable to make rational well thought out planning decisions?

    As is also the case the tendency is to marginalize those that object as standing in the way of big progress for the city(a successful tactic from back in the Moses days). It’s really astounding that after all these years cities still try and fail to solve auto transport capacity issues by increasing capacity a strategy that, in terms of moving cars around, has pretty much been a complete failure.

    But the larger question is where is the demand coming from, other than a longstanding commitment to cars. Obviously more people are going to live in that area than do presently, but no evidence has been given to suggest that they will drive in any greater percentage. In fact the city is spending billions of dollars to build a subway to their doorstep.

  • Coyote

    Like all Clean Air Act issues a SIP is a document that the EPA retains the right to overfile state regulatory bodies. Advocates resisting the change to the SIP, would be wise to initiate contact with EPA Region 2.

  • Will

    Have the environmentalists who support the mayor’s congestion pricing plan said anything about this parking?

  • nobody

    Follow the money… who benefits from all the parking spaces?

  • anon

    I wish T.A. or someone would commission a study that showed that more parking spaces equals more driving (bonus if it also shows that it equals less local shopping) under various types of development scenarios (densities, transit availability, demographics, etc). There’s a long overdue need to make that connection loud and clear so that it sinks into both the minds of folks pounding the pavement and the city government officials who are making decisions about parking requirements.

  • Here’s T.A.’s testimony:
    http://www.transalt.org/press/testimony/070523co.html

    The DEC is reading the “clarification” of their SIP so narrowly that, if successful, they will remove one of the more significant pollution/congestion controls available in NYC: limiting parking supply.

  • da

    Manhattan housing developers aim exclusively at the ultra-high “luxury” end of the market.
    For that “lifestyle”, a second home in the country is a necessity, not a luxury, and until you can take the subway to the Hamptons or the Berkshires, all these people will require cars and a place to park them in Manhattan. Recall Deborah Glick’s reference to constituents who use cars for “occasional weekend travel”.

    Who benefits? The buyers, who have a place to stash their cars, and the developers, who can price the product accordingly.

  • truedat

    Of course once someone has a guarteed parking space for their “weekend car”, it is used for many other trips as well.

  • DA,
    Just as Komanoff said to Glick in his letter, the number of residents who own cars in Manhattan, especially the CBD, is around 25%. There just aren’t that many car owners, even in the luxury buildings.

  • Anon

    Thus the profitability of the Hampton Jitney. Whether they keep their car out on the East End, or share one with family or friends out there, it is another tool even the well-off use successfully to avoid having a car in NYC.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    DA, Not for nothing but the West Side Yards is presently the Western terminus for the LIRR the eastern terminus being Montauk (and Greenport) so as far as the LI rich people go there is already a connection should they lower themselves to use it.

    Parking requirements in buildings is a fertility drug for vehicle miles.

    Also, 20,000 new parking spaces are 20,000 asses not in the seats of the #7 extension that is supposedly so critical to this whole project. These parking spots will basically mandate greater operating deficits going forward for the TA and LIRR operations in that area. Build more parking you need more subsidy because you have lower capacity utilization on those trains. Build less parking you need less subsidy because you have higher capacity utilization on those trains.

    The real problem here is the tendency of the Mayor’s agenda to pull in opposite directions and you have to wonder why? Following the money is a good idea but by the time you see where the money trail led it will all be built and basically, written in stone (or at least concrete, glass and steel).

    There is a similar pull in both directions going on with other aspects of the Mayor’s plan. By allowing and encouraging down zoning in certain neighborhoods, residential density (affordability) is pushed off to compete for scarce manufacturing space in the M-zoned areas. If affordable housing is so key to the Mayor’s plan why allow any down-zoning?

    And if affordability is such an issue manufacturing jobs, make all housing a lot more affordable for those that have them and a lot less affordable for those that lose them. Likewise the artists and small enterprise mom and pop manufacturers need affordable space in the M zoned areas.

    These contradictions, so ingrained in the Mayor’s plan, are making it difficult for groups who otherwise can and would favor congestion pricing to get on board with the Mayor’s plan. In this case congestion pricing to decongest Manhattan so we can shoe-horn in 20,000 more cars (x 10,000 miles per year = 200,000,000 vehicle miles) into Manhattan right around Port Authority Bus Terminal and the Lincoln Tunnel approaches. Go figure.

  • Say again

    Nic

    Good post. Can you restate this, it’s not real clear:

    And if affordability is such an issue manufacturing jobs, make all housing a lot more affordable for those that have them and a lot less affordable for those that lose them.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    I think you nailed it, DA: all of Doctoroff’s fancy talk about sustainability and clean air go out the window as soon as there’s a chance to help developers maximize their returns. But I don’t know what you mean when you say that for the luxury market, second homes are not luxuries.

    It’s clear, though, that there are plenty of rich people who don’t drive to their country houses. As Anon #10 pointed out, the Hampton Jitney is seen as a luxury, and so is the Cannonball service on the LIRR. It’d be nice if reliable rail service were restored to the Catskills and Berkshires, but in the meantime there’s Zipcar.

    The city can get plenty of money from developers without building this garage. Christine Berthet is a regular commenter here, right? I’m glad she’s fighting this, and I hope she’ll keep us posted on what we can do to stop it.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Thanks for the approval Say Again. Also thanks for pointing out how badly I murdered the entirely innocent English language.
    What I meant to say (that sounds even stupider) that at the very least I seem to have misplaced a comma.

    We’ll try this:
    And if affordability is such an issue, manufacturing jobs make all housing a lot more affordable for those that have them and a lot less affordable for those that lose them.

    Its a clumsy syntax but I think a valid position. Affordability is a function of income. Many manufacturing and industrial jobs pay a fairly good income for people who do not have college educations, commonly not native speakers of English and have nonetheless developed skills and managed to eak out enough to pay the rent somewhere near the job. When residential zones displace manufacturing zones in the city, present and future employment opportunities for that group of people are lost. Every house is unaffordable for a guy that just lost his job.

    But it goes to my general criticism of the Mayor’s plan. That by ignoring the needs of the manufacturing sector, and ignoring the port-rail tunnel project, access to the regions core for rail and ship freight and by pushing all of that off to New Jersey the Mayor is creating a really nice residential place with increasingly limited employment opportunities for working people other than as servants, waiters, hair-dressers and restaurant help (all good people and poorly paid workers).

    So, if you swallow the Mayor’s Plan whole one group of people will be trading away their jobs for improved street life in some important other neighborhoods. It plays in a more serious way on the class struggle character of the congestion pricing debate.

  • axle

    City palnners understan why off street parking is critical for many reasons. There are many who will commute by car no matter what. The location of the 950 space lot will be close to transit and rail facilities. Those driving in from NJ and Upstate NY would be able to take the train after they park their cars. The increased housing and commercial space will also require parking for support. Contractors, delivery vehicles, small businesses and commuters who rely on their cars when mass transit is not reliable need places to park. Off street parking will also reduce the pollution created by cars cruising for parking spaces as well as the congestion from street parked cars legally and illegally parked.

  • anonymous

    These people who will drive “no matter what” are a myth. Take away their parking, and they will have no choice but to seek alternatives. And if we’re going to be encouraging park-and-ride, shouldn’t we at least be doing it on the other side of the river-crossing bottleneck? And contractors and delivery vehicles don’t benefit from off-street parking at all, what they need is loading zones that are enforced, and commercial parking. There is so much latent demand for parking that any on-street spaces freed up by creating off-street parking will immediately be taken up by someone else. So you still have all the pollution by people looking for on-street parking, plus the pollution from all the extra cars that are now parking in the garage. If you want to build off-street parking, it should be done in a “parking-neutral” way, at the expense of on-street spaces.

  • Pat

    You can jump up and down all you want about the environment, congestion, urban planning, Robert Moses and all the rest of it. But the fact is that Hudson Yards as a site can only be developed as a Manhattan version of Coop City if the idea is to develop it as housing. It is completely isolated from the rest of Manhattan and no one will chose to live there unless there are some transportation amenities like parking. Given its proximity to the West Side Corridor, this actually makes perfect sense in terms of its marketability.

    The people who shot down the stadium in favor of a new Manhattan neighborhood were really putting the cart before the horse in many respects. I am wondering where all the outcry is against further increased borough population concentration that met the Trump project on the West Side. Why does Manhattan need more high-rise housing development anyway?

    Someone floated the idea of a large-scale cultural institution like the Guggenheim as a more appropriate use of that space. That would make more sense to me in terms of its economic viability and environmental impact.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Pat, I agree that there’s not much need for housing there, certainly not more luxury housing. If I were God, I’d probably put a park there. But this is a Bloomberg/Doctoroff favor to developers, so they’ll try to put whatever makes the developers happy there. My main concern is that it not be another car-enabling facility.

    “Transportation amenities like parking” may have made perfect sense when Co-Op City was built back in 1969, given what people knew then. But we now know that parking just brings more traffic. If the Hudson Yards don’t have adequate transportation for the developments, then it should be built in the form of mass transit – which is the whole point of the #7 train extension.

    The extension may not be enough, but a 950-space parking garage is the worst kind of “transportation amenity” you could build in Midtown Manhattan in 2007, other than the Mid-Manhattan Expressway – in which case we’d really jump up and down about Robert Moses.

  • axle

    A number of years ago, residents wanting parking on the Upper West Side in a neighborhood with 22500 apartments made a clear stand at the Community Board 7 meeting when it was proposed that they would lose 750 parking spaces in garages owned by HPD. Over 600 people came to the meeting, most of which testified to the critical need for off street parking in the neighborhood. After the meeting, HPD officials determined that building 150 apartments in place of the parking was a bad idea. Many of the people testified that they needed their cars where mass transit did not provide adequate access to their jobs. The garages had surprising uses like the storage of ambulances and other vehicles that could not be stored on the street. The proximity of a local hospital and nursing home also required parking for visitors and patients using cars. In addition local schools, police station and fire department needed parking for their employees working late and early shifts. It is just not feasible to plan any large community without some sort of off street parking. Those opposed to the parking garage have no real understanding of what is required to keep a community operating. Rational decisons to have sufficient parking must prevail over emotional and subjective reasoning.

  • Pat

    Angus, I am not too sure about it being a Bloomberg / Doctoroff favor to the developers. They wanted a stadium as a showpiece for the 2012 Olympics (off of which, I am sure, Bloomberg would have made tons of money, to say nothing about his legacy). Its demise was a bitter defeat for B/D. Personally, I think the Stadium-Olympics nexus was a truly brilliant and visionary idea and queching it was a typically NYCish provincial missed opportunity on a grand scale, if that makes any sense. However, that is water under the bridge. The point is that the Hudson Yards is an otherwise utterly useless and unviable piece of real estate, if you could even call it that (Duh, isn’t there a train yard there?). Don’t forget the (grossly underestimated) $100 million price tag just to build the platform over it plus the cost of extending the 7. Who is going to front these out of ground cost, the taxpayers, the Congestion Pricing Fund that is supposed to be earmarked for outer borough transit improvements?

    I am not advocating in favor of 20,000 (not 9,500) parking spaces. The fact is that is what would have to go into the mix regardless of what anyone would wish otherwise for 80,000 households (based on the 25% figure of Manhattanites owning cars) living in the middle of nowhere. The Hudson Yards is a perfectly fine parking lot for trains. Leave it that way.

  • gecko

    Hell’s Kitchen is an apt name for a place to get 20,000 parking spaces, though better to turn it into an oxymoron by repurposing the area for urban farming.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Hey, they could call it the Infernal Parking – “Jen, we left the Escalade in the Seventh Circle, right?”

    Pat, I’m happy to leave it as a parking lot for trains, but we’re assuming that the city will build this platform, and talking about the garages. Given that, I don’t understand where you get “have to go into the mix” from. What is that, an iron law of nature? Parking garages don’t just appear, they’re built by people. Who says that 20,000 spaces have to be built?

    Incidentally, this has now been picked up by the Queens Crap blog. The Crapper has posted some commentary by “Tenant.net” (which is a website? a person? an organization? I can’t tell). Unfortunately, “Tenant.net” seems to have mistakenly assumed that Streetsblog and Berthet are supporting the Hudson Yards plan. Maybe they can set the record straight so that “Tenant.net” and the Crapper can go attack people who actually deserve it.

  • Directly to Pat and Angus’s comments. Those 22,900 spaces are ADDITIONAL spaces that would be built under the new zoning that the Bloomberg Admin passed. Under the current SIP rule, they would only be able to build 4,500 spaces (if we’re talking about how many spaces will be added as an aggregate over what currently exists there, it’s more like 27,400 spaces).

    This is not in keeping with the zoning policies of the past 35 years in the Manhattan CBD, which restricted parking to meet Clean Air Act standards.

    I don’t know if Komanoff wants to post the entire spreadsheet on his blog, but these numbers above are drawn from his work commissioned by Transportation Alternatives.

  • Happy Camper

    What is most galling is that we have 600 charter buses ( tourists, commuters) that do not have a parking location and park on residential streets on the west side …
    they idel pollute the air, park on bus stops etc…
    At the same tiem they do their job: we wnat th tourists but we forgot to provide for bus parking …Helllooooo !
    Why not use that space as a parking for these buses ?

    OH no ! too logical..

  • ParkingWatchdog

    Bloomberg is pushing congestion pricing before dealing with the obvious problem of illegal placard/permit parking by government employees. Government employees drive in and park illegally in Manhattan TWICE as much as the public sector – Why? Because they have “free” illegal parking in No Permit Zones. This is the elephant parked in the street that Bloomberg and NYPD don’t want to see. Previous lip service on getting rid of excess parking permits, restricting their use, confiscating copied permits – enforcing No Permit Zone laws (yes, the LAW) has only developed into a bag of peanuts for the elephant. With congestion pricing, those illegal parkers/permit abusers are now enticed with Free NYC entry AND Free parking!!! The Mayor needs to enforce the law – Get rid of many thousands of illegal permit abusers, and then there would be no need for congestion pricing – Get the priorities straight! (In addition, many, many millions would go daily into NYC coffers from the regained parking meter revenue alone – i.e. on my single block in lower Manhattan I calculated $2000/month lost to the City from illegal use of permits on parking meter spots – mind you, this is a SINGLE city block – this went on for 5-years straight post 9/11.) Think of 20,000 less cars driving into Manhattan due to enforced laws regarding placard parking. There goes the necessity for 20,000 more parking spaces.

  • Steve

    Actually, parkingwatchdog, there was a suggestion in a statement recently that the administration expects drivers of “official plate” vehicles (a major subset of the placard abuse crew) to be subject to the fee. Since the fee collection mechanism is going to be electronic, I don’t see how placard abusers are going to get around it. I think a decent number of the ~100,000 fewer cars anticiopated with congestion pricing will be placard abusers who suddenly have to pay to drive to work.

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