NYCEDC Building a Park(ing Lot) for Downtown Brooklyn

With 694 parking spaces underneath Willoughby Square Park, traffic will be much heavier than these renderings show. Image: NYC EDC.
You can't tell from this EDC rendering, but Willoughby Square Park will sit on top of a garage with 694 parking spaces. Image: ##http://www.nycedc.com/ProjectsOpportunities/CurrentProjects/Brooklyn/WilloughbySquare/Pages/WilloughbySquare.aspx##NYC EDC.##

If you’ve ever wished you could dodge more cars and inhale more exhaust on your way to the park, Downtown Brooklyn’s next green space is for you. It will be built on top of a garage with nearly 700 underground parking spots.

Last Thursday, the city’s Economic Development Corporation released a request for proposals to build Willoughby Square Park, a new public space set to open on Willoughby between Duffield and Gold. Instead of using city funds to build the park, EDC is building 694 parking spaces underground and getting the garage’s developer to pay for the park construction.

City officials have repeatedly referred to the new public space as Brooklyn’s Bryant Park. Like Bryant Park, it will be privately run and surrounded by towers. But here’s one major difference: Bryant Park sits on top of the stacks of the New York Public Library, not an enormous garage. Two decades ago, the city was thinking creatively about how to combine an ambitious park restoration with the storage of 3.2 million books and 500,000 reels of microfilm. These days, the city seems intent on combining its development and public space plans with the storage of congestion-causing, streetlife-suffocating private vehicles, even in incredibly transit-rich downtown Brooklyn.

The merger of park and parking garage is no surprise in an EDC-sponsored project. The agency has recently been in the headlines for building so much parking at Yankee Stadium that the developer may default on its bonds, and EDC president Seth Pinsky once told Streetsblog that providing too little parking at a project would be “the worst thing we could do.” You can also point the finger at the Department of City Planning, which put forward the idea for a park over a garage in its 2004 rezoning.

  • Rob B.

    Does Seth Pinsky of EDC even live in the city?

  • jsd

    What century is this?

  • Given their track record, I question why we need an Economic Development Corporation at all. Just another byzantine, quasi-public layer of bureaucracy.

  • The rendering for this 700 car garage shows only ten cars on the street approaching it. Ten cars? That’s utter bulls***. I’d like EDC to come up with a more realistic picture… or I’d invite fellow Streetsbloggers to mock up their own interpretation of what this atrocity hidden by trees will become.

  • strawman

    a public park at no cost to nyc taxpayers
    i can see why you guys are complaining . .

  • strawman… it may SEEM like there’s no upfront cost to taxpayers but after a few weeks… those extra 700 cars will bring potholes, road wear and tear, extra additional air pollution, and unfortunately there’ll inevitably be an injury, a 911 call, and lots of unintended costs. Oh, and that’s of course not counting all the money the city already paid (more than $40 mil) to buy out the former property owners of the site through its eminent domain use.
    http://www.brownstoner.com/brownstoner/archives/2009/01/two_big_buys_do.php

  • JW

    it depends on the entries. if theres a giant garage entry or two taking up a whole edge of the park then thats a huge problem (like LA’s Pershing Square), if its like Portland’s Director Park where it utilizes an existing garage entry and happens to have parking under the park then I see no problem.

  • Adding more parking to Brooklyn’s Downtown is like giving a obese person a belt that is too big.

  • Quelle horreur!

  • Ian Turner

    JW,

    You’re correct that curb cuts are a problem, but paco is right that there are a lot of other unintended consequences as well. In NYC, parking is one of the main constraints on car use and ownership, so it’s entirely realistic to expect that this garage will create extra traffic, noise, wear and tear, pollution, etc.

    –Ian

  • Anon

    Putting 700 parking spaces underground would cost an outrageous amount of money, which would probably never be recouped even at “market” rates. Why does EDC keep planning as if it were 1955? Have they even done a cost-benefit analysis?

  • strawman

    deleting my comment simply because it disagrees with you?

    really mature

  • strawman

    sorry, ignore my last comment, i though i was deleted

    my mistake

  • m to the i

    actually, this parking might just be to replace existing surface parking that is being removed for development. on an aerial shot of where the park would go it looks like theres a big surface parking lot. not that its a great thing. and knowing the edc, they probably quadruple squintupled the amount of parking being lost for good fun.

  • “If you’ve ever wished you could dodge more cars and inhale more exhaust on your way to the park….”

    This is exactly what a handful of angry Prospect Park West residents seem to long for — maybe they can channel their energy into lobbying for the Willoughby Square Park garage rather than continuing to bellyache about the traffic-calmed — and vastly improved — PPW.

    As for Seth Pinsky, he lives on Eighth Avenue near Garfield Place in Park Slope, so he really, really ought to know better.

  • Bolwerk

    EDC seems more hostile to NYC than al-Quada.

  • you’re all insane

    Its unfortunate that Streetsblog’s “reporter” was apparantly too busy riding his vintage bike (sorry, “cycle”) the wrong way down a one way street while chatting on his I-Phone about his upcoming work shift at the co-op to bother reading the RFP (or to watch out for the countless helpless pedestrians in his carbon-neutral path).

    Too bad he missed the part that clearly states that the City is in fact paying for the bulk of the park costs (it says $3.5M). Too bad Noah didn’t bother to report that the garage is in compliance with the 2004 re-zoning of Downtown Brooklyn, which was, I assume, approved by Community Board 2, the Borough President, the City Planning, Commission, and the City Council. I guess Noah knows more about planning and whats neccesary for residents and businesses in Downtown Brooklyn than all of them. Also too bad that Noah didn’t think it neccesary to report that the garage is actually replacing two hideous above ground lots with what looks like a beautiful public park.

    I live in Downtown Brookly and think this is a great project for my neighborhood, have been following it closely and am glad it is moving forward. I also agree with Streetsblog that we need to be more creative about the use of streets and public spaces in NYC and more inclusive in our planning. What could be more creative than accomodating the obvious need for public parking in booming downtown Brooklyn underneath a great public amenity? Central Park seems to function well with the Met’s enormous underground parking lot smack dab in the middle of it, I dont see why this would be any different.

    Its unfortunate that a worthy cause like the one advanced by Streetsblog should be ruined by the divisive and unfounded fanaticism of a tiny minority of total nut jobs like this blog’s commentators. There are a hell of a lot more people in this city who own and drive cars than there are bikers (oops, “cyclists”). Your hollier-than-thou arrogance and totally ignorant, insulting and just plain dumb-fuck statements, such as comparing City agencies to Al-Queda expose your luny fanaticism and will forever doom you and your cause to the fringes. Not to mention the fact that your over the top advocacy is already producing a deep political backlash that will long outlast this administration. Try getting your bike lanes built when Anthony Weiner is elected mayor in 2013 on the votes of middle class outer borough drivers.

    As Streetsblog and Transportation Alternatives shout ’till they’re hoarse, our streets are public spaces owned by us all. So shouldn’t every have a say? Shouldn’t everyone be able to use them equally? Shouldn’t I and the millions of New Yorkers who own cars and (God forbid) want to go for a drive every now and then have a place to park?

  • Again; More parking in Downtown Brooklyn is like giving the fat man a bigger belt. More parking means more cars, there are not enough roads. I am not insane.

  • tom murphy

    Aha! The gone but not forgotten Columbus Park together with its underground municipal garage(at Myrtle & Jay) are now to be replaced. It’s only fair and equitable.

  • Traffic on “arterials” is Downtown Brooklyn’s biggest liability. I live on the Boerum Place end of things where traffic is marginally constrained to order by a median, but if anything happens (like this morning: rainfall) it sets off the motor-vehicular herd for hours of enraged honking. Flatbush is a constant freakshow. You wait 5 minutes for a walk signal and the light starts flashing don’t walk before cross traffic has even cleared the intersection. I feel sorry for anyone who lives up that way, or anyone trying to sell property there. They can luxe-up those condo towers like it’s Abu Dhabi but they won’t be an appealing place to live until something is done about the mad max scene you have to fight through when leaving the compound for provisions.

  • Everard Bone

    I’m hoping that the rambling, incoherent comment by user “You’re all insane” is a hoax.

  • Ian Turner

    Everard: Doubt it. More likely a crank than a troll IMO.

    FTR, I have not possessed a cycle since 2005, but I’ll happily admit to “hollier-than-thou arrogance”. I’d probably spell it right while doing so, however.

    If this parking garage is replacing existing parking, such that there is no net change in the number of spaces, that does change the equation. Not that the city should be subsidizing the replacement (not clear if it is or not), but it’s certainly better to have an underground parking garage with a park than an above-ground garage with no park.

    Better still would be to get rid of the parking garage all together.

  • Woody

    When friends took me to visit Leuven, Belgium, we drove to the heart of the old city, and were guided underground to park beneath a city square. Emerging to ground level, we were just steps away from the old main street, now a car-free mall. We made our way to an outdoor cafe and enjoyed the view of people strolling among the medieval buildings.

    I could probably tolerate this proposed park/parking in Brooklyn, and even a few more like it, if the trade-off was closed or narrowed streets. I don’t think we’ll get that.

    They’ve had centuries more practice, of course, but there’s no denying that Europe does cities better than we do.

  • FTR, I have not possessed a cycle since 2005, but I’ll happily admit to “hollier-than-thou arrogance”. I’d probably spell it right while doing so, however.

    Maybe our crank was thinking of bus stops and wet days…

  • Bolwerk

    Your hollier-than-thou arrogance and totally ignorant, insulting and just plain dumb-fuck statements, such as comparing City agencies to Al-Queda expose your luny fanaticism and will forever doom you and your cause to the fringes.

    I’m guessing “you’re all insane” thinks I should apologize to al-Qaeda. Sorry, not going to happen!

  • jsd

    “Hollier than thou”

    Just because we have the true Christmas spirit doesn’t mean we should be ridiculed!

  • JK

    I laughed when I saw the outraged comment which suggests Anthony Weiner will restore New York’s motordom to its right and proper place when he is mayor. Is this the same Anthony Weiner, who is a member of the Congressional Bike Caucus, and is a strong supporter of progressive transportation legislation? Is it the same Anthony Weiner who is a leading champion of Safe Routes to School — which he earmarked millions for? Sorry Mr. Outrage, the genie is out of the bottle. Thinking people recognize that reducing car use is a key part of good city management. Does that mean all parking is bad? No. But Streetsblog readers are reacting to the large subsidies to parking the city is spending either directly, or via various subsidies, and the fact that these subsidies and parking requirements do not appear to be part of a coherent transportation plan, the way town square parking does in many European cities.

  • Sounds like the Boston Commons. This is a great plan. I would love to come back to Brooklyn, sit in that park, and reminisce about the old days when I attended Brooklyn Poly  and all the local bars. Today, I am a born again Christian, I only reflect!