Bloomberg: Buildings Can Be Green and Full of Parking

bloomberg_depot.jpgMayor Bloomberg at today’s Gateway Center grand opening. Photo: WNYC.

Kudos to Mayor Mike for calling out the Senate Dems’ poor excuse for an MTA plan. If only Bloomberg could see his own policies with such clear eyes.

Yesterday the mayor unveiled a package of legislation designed to cut carbon emissions produced by buildings, to much Earth Day fanfare. Conspicuously absent from the proposals, however, was any mention of the driving that certain buildings induce and all the emissions that could be cut by reforming the city’s off-street parking policy.

At the presser, Streetsblog correspondent Gideon Shapiro asked the mayor how parking and induced demand for driving fit into his ambitious green building plan. "If you want to make an impact in
New York City," Bloomberg responded, "you deal with the buildings first,"
since buildings are the source of most of the city’s carbon emissions.
He acknowledged that "traffic strangles our city and pollutes our air,"
but tabled the topic of auto emissions as if it were a totally separate
issue.

Sure enough, today we got another reminder that the Bloomberg administration is greening the city with one hand and fouling it with the other. The mayor presided over the grand opening of a Home Depot at the Gateway Center, a project of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, touted as "a multi-level regional shopping center" that "will feature an innovative concept that creates dedicated parking fields for each level." It’s basically a big chunk of auto-oriented suburbia plunked down by the South Bronx waterfront.

In a statement, the mayor mentioned Gateway Center — with its 2,800 parking spaces — in tandem with the new Yankee Stadium, which arrived recently with its own fields of parking. The connection is only fitting: If you build the garages, the traffic will come.

City Hall estimates that its green building plan will cut citywide carbon emissions by five percent. But a building plan without a parking strategy leaves out a big part of the equation. If the city fails to curb the boom in off-street parking, much of the energy savings from more efficient buildings will be wiped out as New Yorkers drive more than a billion extra miles each year.

  • It’s pretty much axiomatic at this point: Manhattan gets urban shopping, the outer boroughs get suburbia, regardless of the actual conditions of the surrounding neighborhood. And the justification is always the same: “it’s a regional attraction”. Well, what about attracting your own neighbors?

  • I want to know more about the Gateway Center. From the description it sounds like Dadeland Station in Miami. 3 floors of stores (best buy, michals, target, bed bath and beyond, sports authority) and 6 floors of parking.

    It works very well, and if this concept is the same, then I aplaud it.

    Anybody who argues that a home depot should have less parking clearly doesnt shop at home depot. I dont own a car, but if I were to go to home depot, Id be renting a vehicle for the day.

  • Danny G

    Step 1: Trade on-street parking for shopping center parking.
    Step 2: Shopping centers have near-monopoly on parking; monetize it.
    Step 3: People drive less often, and more efficiently.

    (Besides, if you can convert warehouses to condos, you can do the same with parking garages.)

  • J-Uptown

    Jass,

    You are clearly unfamiliar with the 2 Home Depots in Manhattan that have ZERO off-street parking. One is at 59th Street & Third Ave, and the other is on 14th Street, between 5th & 6th Ave. How do you explain the success of these stores? Home depot sells lots of things that don’t require a car to move. The things that do require a car to move can be handled by for-hire vehicles, such as black cars and taxis. If you plan for maximum parking, then you will get maximum driving, at the expense of the surrounding neighborhoods and the quality of the development.

    Building and planning this way misses a HUGE opportunity to improve transit access to the area. The IKEA in Red Hook was forced to create free ferry service, shuttle buses, and extend the existing MTA bus lines to the area. As a result, the non-car owning masses get easy access to the formerly transit-remote area, the store gets more customers, and the neighborhood gets less traffic. Everyone wins. The Bronx Terminal Market method of development is unacceptable in New York City, and it is hypocritical for Bloomberg to talk about green initiatives while promoting project like this.

  • zgori

    The home depots in manhattan are not lumberyards. They are basically showrooms for high end toilets and stainless steel grills, with some lightbulbs, tools and paint thrown in. Sounds like this home depot is a real lumberyard, which sells things like 2x4s and sheetrock. You need a vehicle to transport those.

  • “You need a vehicle to transport those.”

    So why didn’t they build it in a neighborhood that can actually handle all the traffic this one will generate? I’ll tell you why. Because in the outer boroughs, any and every offer to build anything is rubber-stamped regardless of fit or need.

  • J-Uptown

    Zgori,

    You may need a vehicle to buy lumber, but my point is that MOST people going to Home Depot are not buying lumber. This is particularly true for people who live in the South Bronx and Manhattan. Most people who live there rent apartments and don’t own a car. Why not make it easy for THEM to get to the store? Why not try to reduce the amount of car trips?

    I’m not saying don’t provide any parking. I’m saying, provide some parking but encourage transit as much as possible. The Bloomberg method provides as much parking as possible while not encouraging transit at all. The transit model worked for IKEA, so why not do it elsewhere? The simple answer is that the Bloomberg EDC people aren’t thinking long term, and it’s easy to build a big parking garage and call it a day.

  • J-Uptown

    Think about this: Every apartment in Manhattan has furniture, yet only about 10% of Manhattan households own cars. They got the furniture there somehow. Also, many trips to Home Depot are for things other than lumber. How many times have you been to Home Depot for a screwdriver or a light switch? Do you really need a car to haul those things home?

  • anonymous

    Dude, how do you go to Home Depot without a car? You expect people to take 2x4x8s on the bus?

  • anonymous

    Jobs in the South Bronx sounds like a good idea.

  • Dude, how do you go to Home Depot without a car?

    Myself, I take the F train to 23rd Street and walk 1/2 block. There’s one closer to where I live in Brooklyn but it’s only accessible by car, and I don’t have one of those, like 40% of my neighbors.

    And sure, jobs are a good idea. Hey, I have an idea. I’ll start an airport in the South Bronx. That’ll bring jobs, too.

  • Boris

    I’ve gone to the 3rd and 59th Home Depot numerous times, always without a car. When I bought a refrigerator there, delivery to my 5th floor walk-up cost $25 (and a $20 tip, because I felt sorry for the delivery men having to haul that thing all the way up, plus the fridge was on sale). A trip to a car-oriented Home Depot probably costs more than $45, considering all the expenses of owning a car and the damage to the area the store is in.

  • I’ve got a Home Depot seven blocks from me here in Queens, and I walk. I’ve carried some big sheets of plywood, but most of the time (as others have said) I’m going for a light fixture or a HEPA filter, things that can fit in a backpack.

    Millions of others do the same. Millions, dude.

  • J-Uptown, perhaps youre talking about home depot design centers (which are being phased out).

    Most people do not go to home depot to buy lightbulbs. The majority of their business comes from contractors and individuals redoing a home. Owners, not renters. They need ladders, plywood, paint, tools and other large objects. They need a car (pickup truck) to take it home or to the job sight.

    A best buy doesnt require parking. A walmart doesnt require parking. A home depot does.

  • J-Uptown

    Jass,

    Your comments show both a lack of knowledge about New York City and a failure to read carefully and think logically.

    1) Neither of the Home Depots in Manhattan are Design Centers. The Home Depot on 59th St sells lumber, not a lot, but they definitely sell it. Go see for yourself. I bought some wood panels are took them on the subway.

    2) Perhaps you didn’t read my comment carefully. I’m not saying zero parking. I’m saying provide the minimum amount parking to discourage driving trips when then aren’t necessary, such as when the non-contractor majority shops there. I also think they should actively promote alternative methods of getting to the store. Please explain what is so very wrong with this idea.

    3) Since you obviously aren’t from around here, the Bronx and Manhattan are made up 95% of apartment buildings. These buildings are made of steel, plaster, and concrete. People in these neighborhood aren’t building decks in their backyards. Most people don’t have backyards. Surprised?

    4) The arguments you are making are the same ones made for IKEA in Red Hook, but it has been shown that building massive amounts of parking is not the only way to provide access to stores that many people consider to depend exclusively on auto access.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/11/nyregion/11ikea.html?_r=1&pagewanted=1&ref=nyregion

    http://gothamist.com/2008/06/17/ikea_red_hook_how_to_get_there_chea.php

  • Jass, I’m guessing you don’t actually live in New York, or else you could just go and look at these stores. But maybe you could read an article or two before going on and on about things you don’t know anything about.

  • Whoops! J-Uptown beat me to it. My links are better, though. ;-P

    Let me add, though, that there are also plenty of small, independently owned, specialized paint and hardware stores that do cater to homeowners, renters and supers. There are also some lumberyards and building supply stores. These mostly make do with a few on-street parking spaces. And of course many of them will be driven out of business by the new Home Depot, just like the Costcos and Fairways are driving out the small grocery stores.

  • t

    Can’t it be a little of both? The problem is that some of us can and do walk to and from stores such as this, but many people do not. Much of New York City is suburbanized: lawns, driveways, and houses are the norm in many parts of Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. (Not the mention Staten Island.)

    Now, 2,800 spots seems excessive, as a trip to Ikea on all but its opening weekend would demonstrate. That number should probably go down and other solutions should be created. To use Ikea as an example again, even though it’s not a perfect one, the city changed bus routes to get people there, Ikea offers its own bus shuttle, and there’s the water taxi. Plus delivery on all items, big or small. There are lots of ways to get there other than by car. (Although we shouldn’t demonize the car altogeter; Ikea offers preferred parking for Zipcars, a nice sign that they encourage car sharing and recognize that some percentage of their business overlaps with Zipcar membership.)

    By the way, why jump on Jass because he mistakenly called the Manhattan stores Design Centers? His point remains the same. While you can buy lumber there, it’s in small quantities, by no means anywhere near the size or amounts one can get at the Brooklyn, or other outer-borough locations. It is, in fact, a place that caters more to the more small-scale apartment renovation set and not contractors, who are more often found at other locations. Zgori made the point of distinction already, so no need for people to be jerks! Does it make people better to win a semantic argument? Congrats! They aren’t Design Centers!

    It can’t be all or nothing. As transit advocates, we need to stop with the “just because I can do it, everyone else can too” argument. What’s needed is a balance. Personal examples can be constructive and informative, but they are not one-size-fits-all. Angus, I always love your arguments and agree with you 99% of the time, but you frequently use your experience as an argument for why everyone should be able to do the same. At least that’s the impression that your comment gives. It’s a surefire way to get the other side to disagree immediately and not be open to creative solutions. Imagine sarcastic Bloomie himself responding, can’t you hear it? “That’s fine for you, but most people need to carry more than a bag of potting soil home.”

    Go to Home Depot on a Sunday morning and you’ll see tons of contractors buying sheet rock or brownstone owners buying heaps of dirt and mulch for their gardens and others buying everything in between. Creative solutions for these people are needed: transit, delivery, and, yes, parking.

  • This is the same problem every big box style store has in the design phase. “Good practice” says to build the parking lot for whatever store so that it will be at 95% capacity on the single busiest shopping day of the year whenever that is for the particular store whether that’s black Friday or Boxing day or whatever. The other 364 days of the year are lucky to see 40% of the parking spaces used. This is a problem everywhere and creates waste not just in NYC but in suburbia too. New York zoning policy should be amended to prevent this but engineering standards for good practice should be modified across the discipline.

    So to the point Home Depot should probably have some parking, just no where near as much as planned right now.

  • well said, t
    i think you’ve highlighted a problem that i think is all to common on this site

  • Let me clarify, T: I did not mean to suggest that my experience is universal, only that the generalizations made by Jass and the anonymous poster miss a large segment of the customer base for Home Depot here in NYC.

    To illustrate what Rhywun is talking about, please see Home Depots in the Bronx on Google Maps. Home Depots A, B and C (D is the same as B) serve the sprawly eastern Bronx of lawns, driveways, houses and James Vacca. Home Depot E is the one we’re talking about. It’s surrounded by apartment buildings, and should be much more like the Home Depots in Manhattan.

    To illustrate Gary Fisher’s point, the parking lot at the Home Depot in my neighborhood is never crowded. There’s room there for another store, a restaurant, a playground or any number of better uses for that space.

    So we’re all arguing that it can be a little of both. Why are you and Oscar criticizing us, instead of the extreme positions taken by Bloomberg and the developers?

  • t

    Angus, I’m not really criticizing you, just asking for a little more sense of how your comments would appear to the non-transit-oriented segment of the community. THEY are the ones we need to win over. I, in fact, agree with you almost completely and I think if we met face to face would be on the same page about everything. (I just hauled 60 pounds of garden dirt and flowers back in a cart on the subway, so I’m with you.) We just need to be better at how we present our arguments.

    I think there’s a HUGE lack of imagination on the Bloomberg administration’s part when it comes to this development. Just put up parking, seems to be the philosophy. Something needs to change, and my point is that I think we’ll get more accomplished if we recognize where the other side is coming from and think about how they will hear our arguments.

  • J-Uptown

    t,

    You make very good points. Perhaps I should just let the articles posted by the Cap’n and me speak for themselves.

  • lee w
  • good call.

    what’s bizarre about this requirement is that it screws the landlords – that space could and should be storefront or more living space. if i was a landlord, i’d be pissed.

    someone should do some research into how much money they stand to lose with this policy. money talks, bullshit walks.

  • gecko

    There still remains the perception and realities that only cars can provide the levels of practicality, convenience, and comfort that many people expect and require and businesses must cater to this extra expense and the city gets tax income from this type of wasteful land use.

    It is not that difficult for the city to provide for much better transportation than cars with the land allocated towards much more productive services and greatly improved income streams.

    The proposed public bicycle system is the first step. More advanced public systems have the potential to provide the requisite services that make cars in urban areas obsolete.

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