In an unusual turn of events, two Brooklyn politicians and one community board are pushing for less off-street parking at the New Domino development proposed for the Williamsburg waterfront. City Council Member Steve Levin and Borough President Marty Markowitz have recently bolstered a resolution from CB 1 calling for hundreds of fewer parking spaces.
The New Domino is a massive redevelopment of 11.2 industrial acres just north of the Williamsburg Bridge. Developer CPC Resources has proposed building 2,200 residences, along with office and retail space. Current plans call for 1,694 parking spaces, even more than what’s required by city parking minimums.
The City Council has final say on the project’s approval, making Levin’s position especially important, since the council usually defers to the local member’s opinion. Levin has said that his support for the project depends on reducing the project’s size, increasing the number of affordable units, and cutting parking spaces by half. "Every parking space they provide is another car that will be congesting our streets," said Hope Reichbach, Levin’s communications director. Levin wants to cut the project down to 1,600 residences, according to the Post, so in tandem with his call to halve parking, his demands would decrease the parking ratio at the project.
Markowitz — not known for opposing provisions for cars — also recommended cutting parking. The borough president gave his support for the overall project, but not to one of its four underground lots — which would trim at least 266 parking spaces.
Markowitz said that he was responding to local demands for less parking, including a request from CB 1 to cut parking. "The neighborhood was concerned about providing spaces above and beyond what current zoning allows," he said, "and since the final build-out of this project is years away, I didn’t feel that there was an immediate need to provide an allowance for that many spaces." Markowitz also recommended testing out a car-sharing program during the early stages of development to try and keep down car-ownership levels.
For now, the developer seems willing to consider reducing the amount of parking included at the New Domino. "We don’t want to include parking for parking’s sake," said Susan Pollock, a senior vice president at CPC Resources. But parking decisions get made in what she described as "a world called SEQRA-land," referring to the state’s environmental review process. The developer chose to provide enough parking to match the very high car-ownership rate of the surrounding area in part because of the formulas used by New York’s environmental law. Perversely, those formulas often give developers the incentive to build huge amounts of parking in order to avoid lawsuits claiming their project will have an adverse impact on the environment.
One solution, according to Pollock, is to update the parking calculations using data from the 2010 Census, which she said is likely to show lower car-ownership rates in that part of Williamsburg. "If we get the new data," she said, "we may be able to drop the amount." CPC Resources is currently in negotiations with the planning department about the possibility of making such an adjustment. Pollock reiterated her interest in renegotiating the number of parking spaces downward at a public hearing this Wednesday, according to the Post.
The New Domino will continue to move through the land use review process in the upcoming weeks and months. If the City Council agrees with Williamsburg residents, Community Board 1, Levin and Markowitz that New Domino doesn’t need 1,700 parking spaces, and if the planning department helps to recalculate the parking levels needed to meet SEQRA standards, it would be a rare victory for parking reform.