Council Member Gale Brewer has struck a deal on the Riverside Center mega-development, sending the 2,500-apartment project through two City Council committees and on a track to final approval. The deal increases the number of parking spaces allowed at Riverside Center to 1,500, far more than the community board or even the City Planning Commission had approved.
With the ability to build 1,500 off-street spaces on the southern edge of the Upper West Side, Extell Development got more than 80 percent of the 1,800 spaces it originally asked for. The City Planning Commission okayed 1,260 spaces — after some fuzzy math added 430 extra spaces — but the Council deal bumped that number up again.
For comparison’s sake, the community board requested 1,000 parking spaces and borough president Scott Stringer called for 1,100 spaces. If Riverside Center were simply built with the same ratio of parking as its successful neighbors, it would only need 550 spaces.
What’s more, while the City Planning Commission required Extell to move a proposed auto showroom to a location where it wouldn’t harm the pedestrian environment as much, the City Council undid that requirement as well, according to environmental planner Dan Gutman. On parking and the showroom, Extell “seems to have recouped what the planning commission took away,” said Gutman.
That isn’t to say that the deal was all bad for the community. The urban design of the project has been consistently improved over months of debate and negotiation. For example, 90 percent of the project’s open space has been brought down to street level, according to a press release from Brewer’s office. That will make the area far more inviting to pedestrians than previous designs which put Riverside Center on an elevated platform, with blank walls facing many sidewalks.
The deal also has Extell putting more money towards a new public school than it had previously agreed to do and guaranteeing that at least some of the affordable housing they must build will be placed on site, both of which are high-priority for the community. The additional parking may have been allowed in order to compensate for those community benefits. After all, said Gutman, “Extell’s argument was always that we need the money. It wasn’t about whether there was a need for these spaces objectively.”
We have a call in with Brewer to find out more about why the Council upped the number of parking spaces in the project.