Brooklyn CB 1, CM Levin, Beep All Demand Less Parking at New Domino

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. 

New_Domino_across_River.jpgA rendering of the New Domino, as it would look from below the Williamsburg Bridge. Image: The New Domino

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. 

  • Ian Turner

    How is it possible that an “environmental review” would conclude that more parking is needed to reduce environmental impact? That’s insane! If true, we need to revise the relevant statues ASAP.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “In an unusual turn of events…”

    Too say the least. Unheard of. A radical shift in the “if they have their own cars they will drive” vs. “they will drive anyway and compete for scarce existing spaces” debate, which is going on nationwide as urban revitalization projects gain steam.

    “How is it possible that an ‘environmental review’ would conclude that more parking is needed to reduce environmental impact? That’s insane!”

    The EIS process presumes Darien. My suggestion: concede a parking impact, but propose Zipcar and biking as “mitigation.”

  • What were our ‘environmentalist’ predecessors smoking? Oh, right.

  • vnm

    I nominate Ian Turner’s comment above for Comment of the Year.

  • bystander

    In SEQRA-land environmental review does not mean the natural environment. It also means the local traffic conditions.

    Clearly they are missing the point that easy parking induces more car ownership and use but how absurd to base your parking demand estimates on “ambient car ownership” what does that have to do with traffic, street capacity, air quality conformity, pedestrian environment (oops, there goes that word again) or any reasonable planning principle related to urban development?

  • Edgar

    It is indeed commendable that Levin and the community are asking for less parking spaces, but demanding a downsizing of the project in general is a completely anti-environment stance. We need urban density in neighborhoods so close to the core of the city, not less. Otherwise the development will be diverted to the exurbs. Not to mention that restricting housing supply makes housing LESS affordable overall (except for the lucky few who win the affordable housing lottery), not MORE affordable.

  • Ambiance

    Bystander, you mean the city’s noise code isn’t based on ambient noise levels? My electric guitar playing neighbor thinks the noise from sirens, tractor trailers, subways, buses and HVAC are the base line for city noise enforcement.

  • Edgar, what matters is accessibility to jobs and shopping via transit and on foot. By those measures, the “New Domino” is actually not a great place to put high density.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Edgar, what matters is accessibility to jobs and shopping via transit and on foot. By those measures, the “New Domino” is actually not a great place to put high density.”

    Add in bicycle and, possibly, a private van shuttle funded by the complex and the picture changes dramatically.

  • Too bad the same can’t be said about Flushing’s councilman and Community Board…what a shame

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