Meet the Designer Behind the NYC Parking Boom

east_river_plaza.jpg

Earlier this week, the Times real estate section profiled the developer-architect team behind East River Plaza, a big box retail outlet in East Harlem that will include 1,248 parking spaces when it opens next year. In the piece, we learn that the project’s designer, an Atlanta-based Home Depot specialist called GreenbergFarrow, is responsible for other parking-rich shopping centers throughout the city, including Gateway Center at Bronx Terminal Market (pictured above), Rego Park Mall II, and the Red Hook Ikea.

In one passage, a GreenbergFarrow architect explains his firm’s intention to replicate the suburban shopping experience in the urban core:

People might visit a shopping district like SoHo or Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village as an enjoyable way to pass a few hours, but they shop in big-box stores purely for practical reasons and are annoyed if they are forced to linger, said John R. Clifford, a principal of GreenbergFarrow. “One experience is recreational and the other is all about convenience,” he said in an interview at the company’s Manhattan office.

From the outset, Mr. Blumenfeld, the principal of the Blumenfeld Development Group, hoped to attract retailers like Home Depot and Costco, whose suburban customers are used to parking in a big lot and wheeling carts and pallets along flat surfaces.

Since a parking lot was out of the question at East River Plaza, GreenbergFarrow tried to make parking in the garage as similar as possible to a suburban experience. The parking surfaces themselves are flat and accessible directly from the stores by bridges, and shoppers enter and exit by means of circular ramps located at two corners of the parking structure.

So, in the name of convenience, Blumenfeld Development and GreenbergFarrow are squandering the inherent attraction of urban streets — walkable places where people actually like to linger — and flooding the city with additional car trips.

These big box stores may have been given the green light before PlaNYC was unveiled, but how does this wave of car-friendly development square with Mayor Bloomberg’s much-touted sustainability goals? Between a City Planning Department that sits back and allows the willy-nilly construction of new public parking garages, and an Economic Development Corporation that actively courts big box retailers and signs off on stadium parking subsidies, the push to mitigate traffic seems to have been limited to congestion pricing. Streetsblog has a request into the Office of Long-term Planning and
Sustainability to find out whether scaling back huge parking facilities
is on the mayor’s agenda.

Rendering of Gateway Center at Bronx Terminal Market: Brennan Beer Gorman Architects/New York Times

  • Andy B from Jersey

    Wow! I no what firm NOT to work for once I’m done with my planning degree.

  • JK

    This is anti-city, anti-environment and completely antithetical to any serious sustainability effort. The developer’s false choice between shopping in “recreational” SoHo or at a “practical” big box, belies the everyday experience of millions of New Yorkers, who do not have a car, and walk to shop in their own neighborhoods on weekdays, or take transit to shop on weekends. How ironic that with gas prices soaring and climate change remaking the world around us, New York City is promoting car-dependent development which will take decades to remedy. The explosion of car-dependent big boxes in NYC is an urban planning fiasco.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    KNOW! (Food coma)

  • I grew up in suburbia and moved to New York to get away from this! This is horrendous! Manhattan does *not need* a big box retail outlet with oceans of parking, and it *encourages* people to drive cars not only around the city but into the city, thus adding to our noise, pollution, and congestion woes (not to mention injuries and fatalities).

    We need to explode the myth that car-centric big box shopping is “convenient” and pedestrian-centric street shopping is a “hassle.” I would find big box shopping by car in New York a nightmare! On the other hand, I find it highly convenient on Saturdays to shop for food at the Greenmarket across the street. On any day of the week, I have within a two-block radius a grocery store, a few pharmacies, cleaners, florist, barbershop, hardware store, and two restaurants (among other retail). Do I live off Union Square? No! I live in Inwood, which is hardly considered a glamorous, destination neighborhood.

    Rather than opening the door to big box developers, the city should be supporting existing small businesses and encouraging enterpreneurs to open new ones, particularly in underserved areas.

  • Oh no. Walmart is next.

  • Air

    Anyone surprised – Atlanta’s near the top in terms of air pollution.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Sorry but I have to disagree. Lots of people with cars drive right past this development to shop up in Westchester.

    My experience is that many of those who moved to NYC for the “urban experience” also do so when they have kids and buying in bulk is cheaper.

    Better to keep those jobs and taxes in the city. While some people will drive, others will get the option of taking transit there, and (if they have too much to carry) a cab or car service home. That option does not exist if the stores are on Central Avenue.

  • When you get down to it, I doubt these lots provide the suburban shopping experience promised. I have little personal experience, but I am told that (not suprisingly) the space allocated to each car in NYC lots is inadequate and makes entering and leaving the car very difficult and unpleasant. Plus there is the congestion in accessing the lot and spaces within it in the first place.

    The only real comfort these lot-based commercial developments offer is the opportunity to smoke cigarettes, listen to music and be air-conditioned en route.

  • uSkyscraper

    I’m one of those who drives up to Westchester because I need the goods that these stores carry at the prices they sell them at. I’m going to drive regardless because I’m not paying $80 for shipping for a portable dishwasher or roll of carpet, so it’s better if I can minimize my miles by shopping locally. Big box stores are not going away, and cities will die (and do) before this category of stores ever does, so I look forward to seeing more of them in urban settings in under-retailed districts.

    That said, I agree that the design can’t be botched to be so car-oriented. These developments should tolerate and accept cars while focusing most of their energy on pedestrians, who rightfully should be the dominant audience in NYC. As an example of how to do this right, see the Target-anchored plaza just east of Broadway and 225th St. This plaza has a continuous sidewalk of multiple storefronts and hides its parking behind the stores or on the roof of the Target/Marshall’s. It has probably the only Applebee’s in the nation that is actually a neighborhood restaurant with a sidewalk and heavy walk-in traffic! The low prices bring significant benefit to the residents of the housing project across the street. All in all a great implementation.

  • Spud Spudly

    That huge parking lot at “East River Plaza” is really hideous and juts out into the scenery in a terrible way. They might be better off if they saved the money from constructing the parking garage and invested it in free big-box delivery service in the neighborhood, so people who don’t have cars can walk over and buy things and have them delivered.

  • Somehow, I doubt this firm included bicycle parking in their plans.

  • Ubanis, that is what the cart collecting cages are for, something to lock your bike to.

  • gecko

    Hopefully, these huge parking spaces can be turned into affordable housing or urban farming, and a little bit of imagination employed to even better attract driver-shoppers while encouraging them not to use their cars in the city.

    Boat rides could be a good way to start (which Ikea might already have in place).

  • Hi Skyscraper, I agree that the 225th St. plaza is well done in terms of pedestrian and mass-transit integration, and it respects the streetscape.

    One of my gripes about these big box plazas is that they are completely filled with chain stores (Target, Applebee’s, etc.) rather than local businesses, which harms a neighborhood’s uniqueness and character and takes money out of the community. From what you’ve seen, do you think low prices can only be had from chain stores and big boxes?

  • Shemp

    People want to get out of them quickly because they are heinous hell-holes.

  • Since a parking lot was out of the question at East River Plaza, GreenbergFarrow tried to make parking in the garage as similar as possible to a suburban experience.

    So they put up dividers on all the surrounding roads ensuring that if you’re trying to get there and miss your turn, you have to go miles out of your way before you can turn around and go back? That’s been the most memorable aspect of my suburban shopping experience.

  • gecko

    Obviously, New York City Transit leaves much to be desired when sizable packages have to be transported, and an issue that should be addressed.

  • Car Free Nation

    For those who own a car to drive to the suburbs or a big box store to save money, I think you might want to do some calculating. I think you’ll find that the costs of the car greatly outweigh any savings.
    Owning a car is roughly $500/month in expenses, before you start driving (including depreciation, repairs, insurance, and parking if you pay for it). How much shopping do you need to do before you save that much money? Even if you’re saving a few dollars, wouldn’t your life be better if you didn’t have to worry about parking on the street?
    I also think that much of the savings are illusory. You might save a few pennies, but you end up with a gallon of salad dressing that you don’t really like anyway. And you need a place in your fridge to store that salad dressing.

  • uSkyscraper

    Just read the Times article more closely and turns out GreenbergFarrow did in fact design River Plaza at 225th St. Perhaps we are scapegoating the architect when much of the design decisions in a project like this come from the client.

    As for big box stores in cities, my thoughts on that topic are too voluminous to go into here, but I’ll just say that New York is part of North America, and it is difficult to fight the patterns of an entire financing- retailing- development- industrial complex. Better to work with these stores than try to keep them out.

  • christine

    Two words : Home delivery !

  • momos

    Appropriately, the facade will be wrapped in a steel mesh American flag.

  • Larry,

    You don’t drive past those stores one your way to Westchester because the parking lot isn’t there, you drive past them because they’re not built or opened yet.

    According to the Times article, they’re building 1,248 parking spots at $50,000 apiece, a total cost of $62.4 million! Instead of building the parking spaces, if they invested that money in tax-free debt at say, 4% interest, it would throw off about $2.5 million a year, enough to afford a fairly substantial delivery operation, I would say. Then you could take mass transit to the stores, and have them deliver anything you couldn’t carry. How often do you go to Costco or Home Depot, anyway? And there’s already a Target at the Atlantic Terminal.

    Sure, there are times when you might need to drive to the store, but there are smarter ways to do things. Car-Free Nation has it pretty much right, I think. My wife bought one of those giant food-service-sized jars of Hellman’s Mayonnaise at Costco about three years ago, and we still haven’t used it up (thank goodness the stuff keeps). In the meantime, it’s about the only thing we have room for in the fridge.

    For the record, we let our Costco membership lapse last year.

    One other thing for you Streetsblog fans to note: anti-Congestion Pricing shill Richard Lipsky makes his living principally by fighting against the infiltration of big-box stores into New York City, but since East River Plaza is being developed by Bruce Ratner, for whom Lipsky shills for Atlantic Yards, he’s been mum about this project.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “One of my gripes about these big box plazas is that they are completely filled with chain stores (Target, Applebee’s, etc.) rather than local businesses, which harms a neighborhood’s uniqueness and character and takes money out of the community.”

    If people want to shop in those stores, they’ll go somewhere. If the total amount of retail space in the city is not expanded, they’ll outbid local businesses for space on local streets. Isn’t that what people are complaining about?

    “Sure, there are times when you might need to drive to the store, but there are smarter ways to do things.”

    The parking is what the retailers think they need. Get them in the city, and people will find the smarter ways to do things. And then the parking facility can be turned into a giant rent-a-car/zipcar lot for people who don’t have cars and occasionally need them to drive out of town.

  • Larry Littlefield

    As for Lipsky, he argued that if the city didn’t continue to make it difficult for new supermarkets to open, existing ones would close.

    Then, after they got their way, the existing ones are closing anyway. Just like all that extra money for transit disappeared after CP was turned down.

    Right now, British firm Tesco is testing an urban food proto-type — Fresh & Easy — on the West Coast. It is just what many people would like to see here — a mini-Costco equivalent you can walk to, with lower prices on a limited number of items.

    Why didn’t Tesco bring its “urban” prototype here. Heck, why didn’t someone here create an equivalent? People like Lipsky, paid by those with earned advantages to fight change.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Unearned advantages

  • JK

    Big stores have been part of New York City for a long time (Macy’s, Bloomingdales etc.)”Big box” doesn’t mean just “big store.” It connotes a store with a very large footprint, most typically surrounded by a giant parking field. Big box development — which is often being married with brown field recovery — encourages driving and discourages walking. I don’t buy the arguement that NYC has to accept suburban style, car-dependent big box design. People flock to NYC from all over the world to shop here, including for cheap jeans and shoes. Making it easier for people to drive to the store, is the same as encouraging them to drive and the net result is more driving, not less. The argument that building big boxes locally will reduce overall driving strikes me as similar to the idea that building more highways will reduce traffic on local streets. You get what you build for. Building for driving gets you driving.

  • So true, Car Free. And of course one can cab it to and from quite a few stores before spending $500 a month.

  • Mark Walker

    Big-box retailing has led to a glut of retail space relative to the population. To get a glimpse of how out-of-whack things are in the U.S., go to James Howard Kunstler’s blog for July, 25, 2007. Scroll halfway down, look for purple graphic — the source is Shopping Centers Today:

    http://kunstler.com/mags_diary21.html

    That glut is unlikely to be sustained as the peak-oil crisis becomes more severe and driving continues to become more expensive. The future of retailing is small and local.

    If Wal-Mart wants to survive, it should get its lobbyists to bulldoze local zoning regs and put a small corner store in every neighborhood, like the general stores of old.

    I think internet retailing will continue to grow too. That means more delivery-truck traffic but the tradeoff with car traffic is probably worth it.

  • da

    The discussion of huge mayonnaise jars brings to mind a wonderful book called “The McDonaldization of Society” by George Ritzer, a highly-readable examination of many of the themes explored in this thread. Ritzer describes how chain stores attempt to “rationalize” the processses of production and consumption and this rationalization is reflected in comments about how “convenient” and “economical” it is supposed to be to shop at big box stores.

    But Ritzer also finds that this process ultimately undermines itself in a kind of “irrationality of rationality”. The net convenience and economy in our lives begins to fall as big box stores increasingly kill off local shopping streets, often just steps from home.

    I avoid big box & chain stores as much as possible, because I simply can’t afford them.

  • Re 18:

    As Car Free Nation says, the cost of owning a car far outweighs the money to be saved by shopping at big box stores. It’s not a good idea to buy a car just so you can shop at Ikea or Costco. But if you already own a car because you need it for work (or because you think you need it, or whatever), you can save a lot of money by shopping at the big boxes. So the Wal-Mart/Target/Costco shoppers are not entirely irrational.

    I think it’s useful to remember that a large part of the cost of owning a car is overhead, so if you own a car, you don’t save much money by leaving it at home while you take transit or shop locally.

    Owning a car practically forces you to do lots of other anti-urban things because — once you’ve committed to car ownership — you can’t afford to do otherwise. So it’s important to persuade as many people as possible that they don’t need to own their own automobiles; but that’s hard to do in New York, and almost impossible in most other places.

  • NYC should just declare that any development over a certain footprint needs to be mixed use and transit oriented – Period.

  • One thing I forgot to mention earlier is that stores like Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s have been selling large items, like beds and dining tables — far too big to cart home on the subway or a bus — for a century. As far as I know, their only parking is on the street.

    People didn’t sleep or sit on the floor before the advent of IKEA.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Am I the only one that finds Bloomberg’s development plans sort of schizo. The same guy that pushes big box development wants to squeeze another million of us into NYC and proposes congestion pricing. Whatsupwidat?

  • Jan

    What era of NYC are most of you living in? Chain stores abound in Manhattan. So the argument of buy local, well, you lost that one years and years ago so it doesn’t apply here.

    The builder wouldn’t be developing big box stores with parking if there wasn’t an intra-city demand. No one in the suburbs will be driving into Harlem to go to a big box. The development is for city dwellers with (and without) cars which means, if you follow the argument to its logical conclusion, that there are many city dwellers with cars. So that is the era of NY that we live in.

    And since Sex & the City and Bloomberg have attracted former suburban dwellers with money to NYC, many have cars and many expect suburban accoutrements. Also, many lower income residents have cars and want access to these stores as well knowing family members from outside the city who get to shop in these stores.

    I am not advocating this development but will this property be developed otherwise? Will it lie fallow? Can it be done with input for river access like IKEA? Can it be done with a nicer attitude than automatic demonization of the developer? Yes.

    I also find arguments like “Oh no Walmart is next” silly. If I had a family and the cost of food is rising incredibly and I lived within a close driving distance of a Walmart, you don’t think that I wouldn’t take advantage of low prices to provide for my kids? Walmart may do some bad things but it is not inherently evil. I am just using that as an example.

    Also, I live by Rego Park Mall II and go there twice a month and will avow that a huge majority of people are on foot or public transportation. How is that a parking-rich shopping center? Traffic flows pretty well around there.

    There is such an absolute point of view on here, so ready and so quick to react to anything that doesn’t agree with that accepted, mass point of view. You don’t win converts that way. Ever.

  • JF

    There is such an absolute point of view on here, so ready and so quick to react to anything that doesn’t agree with that accepted, mass point of view. You don’t win converts that way. Ever.

    Gee, here I thought we had some stimulating discussions on Streetsblog, with a diversity of viewpoints but mostly agreeing on the value of livable streets, widely respected and attracting new readers daily. I was so wrong! Thank you for opening my eyes to the groupthink that goes on here. Please, Jan, what should we do? How can we win converts? You are so clearly experienced and successful at thoughtfully explaining things and winning hearts and minds without name-calling or alienating people. Share your wisdom with us!

  • Nic, talk about schizo. Bloomberg just announced a deal with “organized labor” to redevelop Willets Point. According to the Times, “the city said it would discourage’suburban models of big-box stores,’ a reference to Home Depot and Wal-Mart.” The only common theme is development at any cost–any development.

  • Spud Spudly

    You go to Rego Park Mall II twice a month? What are you, a buildings inspector? The place right now is just an empty parking garage, two big cranes and a skeleton of steel beams that will one day be future stores.

  • Davis

    What era of NYC are most of you living in?

    I’m living in the era of a $5-and-rising gallon of gas. What era are you living in?

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Big-box retailing has led to a glut of retail space relative to the population.”

    Speaking as someone who writes about the commercial real estate market around the country, any boom in retail development creates a glut, and in areas where “power centers” have appeared in big numbers there is a glut.

    I see our absence of a glut as more of a threat. Why? Because a shortage eliminates the cheap storefronts that allows the new entreprenurial businesses that people say they want to get started. It is the absence of affordable space that is killing off creativity.

    And keeping space affordable by issuing “placards” to allow existing stores to stay in place, which some propose, would just allow them to charge more for worse service due to the absence of competition.

    Before the 1961 zoning, commercial space was permitted much more widely. It was restricted intentionally, because interests at the time thought there was too much.

    The next wave of “cool” retailing is going to pop up in the burbs — in cheap storefronts made available by overall excess of supply of space relative to demand.

  • Jan

    Hey Spud Spudly, I am in that area, where the Rego Park Mall I exists. I know that you knew that but you couldn’t not be sarcastic.

  • Mark Walker

    Are you the Jan who was against congestion pricing? I disagreed with you then, but I can understand why that position would make you feel isolated. I was happy to see your reappearance, and your comments about retailing were interesting and substantive. Best wishes…

  • It seems like they are always doing this in places like Harlem and the Bronx as if the people who live within walking distance won’t come and shop there– No, they need to try to bring drivers in to our neighborhood. This makes me angry and I’d like to get some ideas for action I could take– I think these developers are disrespectful to our neighborhoods– and to our lungs we don’t need more cars passing through, clogging the streets and making people ill.

    I think we can encourage new stores without ruining these neighborhoods. In 15 years no one will want to drive and having a nice walkable shopping center will help with real estate values– please don’t stiff Harlem and the Bronx by saddling us with these property value sucking, air-quality destroying white elephants!

  • #34: “What era of NYC are most of you living in? Chain stores abound in Manhattan. So the argument of buy local, well, you lost that one years and years ago so it doesn’t apply here.”

    I refuse to believe that the mere fact of having chain stores in Manhattan means we should lie down and passively accept whatever new development horrors come our way. You could argue similarly that because we lost Penn Station to the wrecking ball, there’s no point in fighting to preserve our architectural patrimony.

    The agricultural industrial complex has completely taken over our grocery stores and supermarkets so that we have raspberries from Chile and apples from Washington State–during New York apple season, no less! And yet we have a Greenmarket movement that is helping people buy delicious, fresh, sustainable local produce and it gets stronger every year. Perhaps we will also wise up to the fact that locally owned stores and restaurants are more beneficial (and enjoyable!) to their communities than big box stores and start working to change the legal and regulatory environment that disproportionately favors big box development.

  • Max Rockatansky

    Actually WalMart is *inherently* evil. They screw over American retailers, manufacturers, employees, and customers by destroying communities and filling the void with cheap merchandise. Enjoy your $2 tube socks while your job disappears and you can no longer shop anywhere but WalMart.

  • chriswnw

    A lot of paternalism on this blog:

    “I grew up in suburbia and moved to New York to get away from this! This is horrendous! Manhattan does *not need* a big box retail outlet with oceans of parking, and it *encourages* people to drive cars not only around the city but into the city, thus adding to our noise, pollution, and congestion woes (not to mention injuries and fatalities).”

    and…

    “Sure, there are times when you might need to drive to the store, but there are smarter ways to do things.”

    And I suppose that the two of you consider yourselves qualified to dictate to other people what they “need” and what the “smarter” ways of doing things are, yes? Look, if Manhattan residents do not need a Home Depot, they won’t shop there, and the branch will quickly close. If they decide differently and do shop there and if the branch thrives, I guess that will prove you wrong, won’t it?

    Small businesses don’t have any right to a guaranteed income. If they can’t provide goods and services that people demand in a manner that customers provide preferable to their competitors, they deserve to go bankrupt. Their local-ness doesn’t make them any more worthy of support. (Sentimentality for local-ness is something I will never understand. Modern civilizations are made possible through scale — the last time humans operated in a truly localized economy, they were hunter-gatherers.)

    I even say this as a person who doesn’t own a car. I ride my bike everywhere, including to Fred Meyer (the big box of the Pacific Northwest), Target, Home Depot, Trader Joes, and other big chains. The closer in they are, the less necessary it is to drive there. I know that Portlanders will travel to the suburbs to go to useful big box stores, and I am pretty sure that Manhattan residents do the same. Many are probably shopping at Home Depot as we speak, but had to drive all the way out to New Jersey or Long Island to do so. By putting one in Manhattan, you are reducing their trip time and making it possible for people to arrive by alternative means other than a car.

  • chriswnw

    “The agricultural industrial complex has completely taken over our grocery stores and supermarkets so that we have raspberries from Chile and apples from Washington State–during New York apple season, no less!”

    Horror of horrors, raspberries in the winter! We must put an end to this at once! People should only be able to enjoy their favorite fruit within the confines of a proscribed set of months, namely those established by those who consider themselves more qualified to decided for everybody else what is best for them!

    “And yet we have a Greenmarket movement that is helping people buy delicious, fresh, sustainable local produce and it gets stronger every year. Perhaps we will also wise up to the fact that locally owned stores and restaurants are more beneficial (and enjoyable!) to their communities than big box stores and start working to change the legal and regulatory environment that disproportionately favors big box development.”

    I think consumers can decide what their preferences are for themselves. I don’t need you dictating what I should eat or what time of the year I should be eating it.

  • Ian Turner

    Chris, maybe we would be better off if we just allowed consumers to follow the free market wherever that takes them. But the status quo is not a free market, because different transportation modes have different degrees of public subsidy and negative externialities. Drivers create pollution, congestion, and death, and receive public subsidy for the privilege. Since the political will to make drivers pay the real and substantial costs of their choice, we fall back on zoning as an alternative, more communist, measure.

  • “Drivers create pollution, congestion, and death, and receive public subsidy for the privilege. Since the political will to make drivers pay the real and substantial costs of their choice, we fall back on zoning as an alternative, more communist, measure.”

    Drivers only “create” pollution because the car companies (US Especially) didn’t want to make fuel efficient cars and/or no emission vehicles.

    It’s interesting how everyone is so concerned about pollution, but they are not trying to plant any trees, no one is fighting for more trees in the metropolitan area, they clean the air…

  • chriswnw

    I don’t actually fall into the libertarian free-market camp — I think that there are certain industries that cannot be efficiently run by private companies, and I certainly am in favor of environmental regulations. However, I do not believe in interfering with consumer choice unless said choice can be shown to produce some form of verifiable harm.

    Emissions regulations are the way to address pollution. A greater number of connecting streets (which Manhattan has no lack of) is a good way to address a lack of bikeability or walkability. A heightened gas tax or a vehicle mileage tax would be a good method of reducing congestion, miles traveled and overuse of the infrastructure. There are ways to do these things without curbing consumer choice. I think that many of the readers of this blog simply have a quasi-utopian vision of the good life that they wish to impose upon everybody. It isn’t about the environment — it’s about an aesthetic preference for a particular vision of urban life.

    +1 on more trees. It seems like many urbanites care mainly about preserving trees that they never see, even while suburbanites have far more trees in their immediate presence than people who live in SF or Manhattan.

  • Ian Turner

    Sonic,

    Regardless of /why/ cars create pollution, the reality is that they do. If you want to change that, you’ll have to make drivers pay the cost of the pollution — either indirectly, by enforcing emissions regulations, and the higher car prices that ensure, or else directly, through a gas or emissions tax. Either approach will discourage driving; the degree depends on how restrictive the emissions regulations are.

    It’s fairly specious to say that trees are a solution to air pollution. Although trees can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, they most certainly do not remove the soot and other large particles that come from motor engines and cause asthma, cancer, and heart disease. Personally, I’m strongly in favor of trees, but because I find them beautiful, relaxing, and pleasant, and not because I think they’re going to clean up the air.

    chris,

    The choices made by drivers /have/ been shown “to produce some sort of verifiable harm”. Whether it’s the tens of thousands killed in auto crashes every year, the public health consequences of urban air pollution, or the destruction of communities because the public realm is unsafe, the choice to drive has clear and negative consequences that are not borne by drivers.

    The policies you recommend (emissions regulations, gas taxes) are good policies, but we as a city and as a state have decided not to act on them. So, as with many other urban issues, we fall back on zoning as an alternative, more communist and less effective approach.

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