Police Academy 2: Starring a 3,000-Car Garage

police_academy.jpgCadets will have a hard time getting to New York City’s next police academy, now under construction, without driving. Image: NYT/Michael Fieldman Architects and Perkins+Will.

Last week brought another prime example of Bloomberg administration schizophrenia on urban sustainability. After his flight back from the Copenhagen climate summit, the mayor’s first stop was a former auto pound in College Point, Queens, where he met up with NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly to break ground on the city’s new $750 million police academy.

The facility will be designed to attain a LEED Silver rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. The press release touted its green roofs, rainwater harvesting, and energy-saving building envelopes. Good stuff. But how green can this complex be when it also contains a 3,000-space parking garage?

The current police academy, located on East 20th Street, is a convenient walk from the subway at Union Square or 23rd Street. At the new site, the nearest subway station is more than a mile away. Those 3,000 parking spaces will be a huge enticement for police recruits to drive to the academy, and they’ll come at enormous taxpayer expense.

Consider: St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx plans to spend $25.7 million (including $19.8 million in tax-free stimulus bonds) to build a 605-space garage. Assuming the costs at College Point are roughly the same, that works out to more than $125 million upfront for the police academy garage. Then there’s all the taxpayer money that will go into keeping this parking deck clean, well-lit, and operating smoothly. The price tag varies, but running a commercial garage costs in the neighborhood of $500 to $800 annually per space, according to the Victoria Transport Policy Institute [PDF]. Let’s be conservative with this NYPD garage and go with $300 per space each year. If you’re talking about a 3,000-space garage — and we are — that’s about $1 million to publicly finance driving to the new "state-of-the-art" police academy. Every year, forever.

NYPD’s public information office didn’t have an answer when we asked whether parking will be free at the new academy. We have to surmise that it will be. The city, after all, only expects 2,000 recruits in each class. A 3,000-space garage does not appear to be designed, then, with inducements to carpool or take transit in mind.

If the city did put a price on parking at the new academy, it could probably build a garage half the size of the one it’s moving ahead with, according to parking experts we consulted. That’s about $60 million in construction savings and at least $500,000 in annual operating savings. (Intriguingly, the EIS for this project calls for a smaller, 1,800-car garage, which raises questions about the legality of a 3,000-car garage.)

At the presser for the groundbreaking last week, Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler told reporters that the city would talk to the MTA about increasing bus service to the police academy. Coming amidst a total meltdown in transit funding, the suggestion seems far-fetched. But if the city had steady revenue coming from its parking deck, it would feel a bit more plausible, and the next police academy would be significantly more green.

  • Schizophrenia is not only to be found in the decision to move this facility that far from public transit, but also in its LEED rating. Indeed, while the building may earn LEED silver (wahoo?) its siting would likely not even garner a certification from LEED-ND, which includes strict provisions for Location Efficiency, i.e. transit coverage.

    Also, the rendering makes it appear that there will be hundreds more parking spaces in addition to the 3,000 car garage.

  • Anon

    And let’s not forget the Bronx Zoo’s planned garage (or “Intermodal Transportation Facility”), to be funded by the Federal Transit Administration.

  • I am horrified by that enormous parking wasteland surrounding the building; what a waste of urban space!

  • Since when did Queens become an appropriate setting for suburban-style office “parks”?

  • Whens become an appropriate setting for suburban-style office “parks”? Maybe when Bloomberg and Kelly resigned themselves to recruiting from the suburbs in Long Island. I’ll bet that new location is very convenient to the LIE.

  • Mr Bad Example

    The location also isn’t conducive to people driving in from Manhattan, The Bronx, or Staten Island (they’ll all get hit with big tolls). I don’t think there’s any Brooklyn/queens bound bus service that would cover this–and once you start doing bus transfers, you can forget about a short commute.

    So this was built in College Point to accommodate the Queens and Long Island based cadets and instructors. Because there’s no usable land in a depressed area in, say, the Bronx. Riiiight.

    On a related note on LEED,Santa Monica is the home of the first LEED certified parking garage (an immensely ugly thing–it’s Motel six meets Curtain Wall). So LEED has come to mean whatever the heck you want it to mean.

    Not bitter.

  • Nice. Cops with a windshield perspective for generations to come.

  • 2,000 recruits. 3,000 parking spots. New York City.

    What’s wrong with this picture. If it was Oklahoma City, I would understand, maybe even Los Angeles, but New York City!

  • Erin

    This proposed building and location perfectly illustrate the limitations of the LEED accreditation procedure: Under some LEED schemes (for example LEED NC for New Construction), a project can be LEED certified even if lacks amenities some of us might consider necessary for a project to be environmentally responsible. This project wouldn’t get a point under LEED NC for “Sustainable Sites Credit 4.1 – Alternative Transportation, Public Transportation Access”. But from the perspective of the designers, who cares? There are plenty of other points the project could easily get and it ends up with LEED Silver status anyway.

    I rather grudgingly got my LEED Certification and am a LEED Accredited Professional. I say “rather grudgingly” because I think the system doesn’t require nearly enough to actually improve our built environment. I wish it weren’t becoming the standard for green building because it preserves way too much of the status quo. If you work the credits right, you can build in nearly the same suburban way you always have.

    A while back, when I told my manager I didn’t want to become LEED certified, he said, “But you’re the greenest of all of us here!” I responded, “Exactly.”

    LEED is kind of like USDA Organic. Watered down.

  • Sounds like a fabulously sneaky way to make sure that the recruits include as few city-dwelling minorities as possible: essentially require that they already own a car just to get to training.

    Where’s Al Sharpton or Charles Barron on this one?

  • thatgirlinnyc

    Guys, you’re forgetting bus routes – those do go right to the site. Also, the site is a brownfield, previously housing the vast, monstrous NYPA tow pound and other industrial uses. Putting the academy there will allow it to positively contribute to the community…what was College Point getting out of a 30-acre parking lot for abandoned cars??

  • Nobody’s forgetting bus routes. There’s a big difference between taking any of eight train lines (or ten bus routes) to Union Square and walking a few blocks, and taking one of two trains (the #7 or the LIRR) 15-30 minutes from Manhattan and then transferring to a bus.

    And a facility that attracts thousands of car trips a day is probably much worse for the community than a brownfield.

  • NewPA

    Queens is actually the easiest borough to get to from the other boroughs. To get to the current academy you have to cross a bridge, no matter where you come from except Manhattan. It’s a rather short trip from the Bronx & Manhattan. Now you’ll be able to get there from Queens & Brooklyn without a bridge. As for parking….everyone loves to complain about the parking problem around city facilities, but then here’s more complaining when a parking facility is being built. I guess another housing complex with 10,000 more people is more suitable to some of you. NYC is over-populated already, it doesn’t need more housing units.

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