Jim Brennan Wants to Force Ratner to Build More Atlantic Yards Parking

Could the state legislature get in on the costly, congestion-inducing parking minimum game? And could they do it at the site of Brooklyn’s biggest transit hub? Under a proposal by Assembly Member James Brennan, that’s exactly what would happen.

Assembly Member James Brennan wants the state government to force more parking into Atlantic Yards. Image: ##http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/James-F-Brennan/##NYS Assembly.##

Brennan is working on legislation that would force Forest City Ratner to build more off-street parking at the Atlantic Yards site, as was first reported in the Park Slope Patch. Currently, an 1,100 parking space surface lot is slated for the site.

“We’re going to force them to provide more off-street parking,” Brennan told the Patch. “There is no reason that Forest City Ratner should be allowed to not provide parking.”

Tonice Sgrignoli, a legislative aide for Brennan, said the legislation is still being researched and no details are available at this point. According to Sgrignoli, ESDC eliminated a requirement to build underground off-street parking that had been in an earlier agreement with Forest City Ratner and this legislation would likely undo that change.

When Streetsblog asked why Brennan thought that Atlantic Yards should have more parking in the first place, Sgrignoli replied that “Anyone who’s ever tried to drive a car and park it in that area will understand why it’s important to provide parking.”

Hopefully, Brennan himself has a more sophisticated understanding of parking policy. As former Boerum Hill Association president Jo Ann Simon said, no conceivable amount of off-street parking is going to free up on-street spaces so long as they are cheaper than going to a garage and available to anybody. “If people drive there, they will always try and find something free on the street,” she said. What happens on-street — many in the area, including Simon, have long pushed for residential parking permits — Simon said, “is entirely irrelevant to whether there should be more off-street parking to serve the arena.”

Simon’s argument is borne out by the reality at Yankee Stadium. There, despite a whopping 9,000 off-street spaces, area residents still complain that on-street parking is impossible on game day, according to a Crain’s report.

Moreover, building extra parking will simply mean that more people are able to drive to the area instead. “Brennan’s proposal to compel more off-street parking in one of New York City’s most transit-accessible locations betrays a terrible lack of understanding regarding transportation and mobility,” said University of Pennsylvania parking expert Rachel Weinberger. “His idea will invite more traffic through his district, more traffic in adjoining districts, and by requiring all of that parking, other development is preempted.”

Agreed Simon, “You induce drivers if there is parking there.”

Steven Higashide of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, which has analyzed the plans for Atlantic Yards and is a member of the Brooklyn Speaks coalition, said that underground parking had been a part of the Atlantic Yards plans, but was removed when the amount of development planned was scaled back.

“The only way Atlantic Yards can become part of a vibrant urban fabric is if the city and developer work to reduce driving to the site,” said Higashide. “Providing hundreds or thousands of extra parking spaces won’t do that.”

  • Ronald Shoup

    There was a time when Jim Brennan was a good, solid member of the State Assembly and representative for his community. That time has apparently come and gone. As on the Prospect Park West redesign issue, Jim Brennan is once again proving himself to be deeply and dangerously out-of-touch with the neighborhoods that he supposedly represents.

    During the Atlantic Yards EIS process, civic groups repeatedly called on the developer, the ESDC and the city to limit the amount of parking space, create incentives for transit use and establish residential parking permits. Now here is Jim Brennan, totally freelance, without consulting anyone, demanding that the developer install more parking at the site.

    It would be one thing if this were merely an abstract policy question about parking minimums and induced traffic. But this is 2011 and we have the very real and tangible Yankee Stadium parking garage debacle to look upon in addition to numerous examples. As Rachel Weinberger’s research shows: Guaranteed Parking = Guaranteed Driving. 

    Please: I beg someone… Run in the Democratic primary against Jim Brennan. Twenty-seven years in Albany is enough anyone. The neighborhoods Jim Brennan was originally elected to serve as a young man in 1984 have completely changed from under him. It’s time for a new generation to serve.  Let’s get rid of this guy. I will be your biggest volunteer.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Of course the solution is a residential parking permit, preferably one operating from (say) 8:30 pm to 8:00 am.  That wouldn’t guarantee placard parking, however.

    Brennan may be right that the future will consist of a degraded transit system used only by criminals and victims, and streets too dangerous for cyclists to ride, as in his formative years.  This would be the result of decisions, non-decisions and deals in the state legislature over 15 years, which he agreed to.  Replicating statewide the future selling decisions make by the City of New York from the late 1950s through the late 1970s.

    But that isn’t the present.  Plenty of people are willing to take transit, and without lots of parking, that’s who would attend the games at the Barclays Center.

  • Danaeo

    The justification for this short-sighted policy offered by Brennan’s office is off the mark:  Forest City Ratner has always been required to build 1,100 parking spots to serve the arena.  The change to the Project Plan that eliminated the underground parking lots did not reduce the number of parking spots as Tonice Sgrignoli contends, it simply shifted them  to the surface parking lot at Carlton and Dean.

    Any discussion about arena parking also has to take into account the 400+ parking spaces just across the street at the Atlantic Center mall, which, as it happens, is owned by Forest City Ratner. So the amount of parking available for the arena is more than 1500. 

  • Anonymous

    Brennan’s district starts a mile away from the arena.  So his real concern probably isn’t the impact of drivers looking for parking in the nearby area, since he doesn’t represent that area.  He is probably worried that people from his district who want to drive to the arena won’t find parking there. 

  • Larry Littlefield

    Vehicle occuancy is typically high for sporting events, which is why 18,000 seat arenas don’t have 45,000 parking spaces, even in Texas.  Account for other off-street options, I’d say one-third of those going to the arena could drive there without using on-street spaces.

    That doesn’t even include park and ride — driving to some other area, parking, and taking the subway.  More than enough.

    The goal should be to take away the free on-street spaces as an alternative to paid parking.  Why make it cheaper to drive than use transit, by handing over public space, when driving creates negative effects on the surrounding areas?

  • A. Hamilton Shoup

    This Brennan idea is totally dopey, but why would free or dirt cheap Residential Parking Permits help solve Downtown Bklyn’s parking woes? If memory serves, the most likely RPP program — the one developed as part of congestion pricing — would have been a $10 permit entitling local residents to compete with each other for scarce parking. In theory, it would shove curb hogging government placard holders off the curb. To what end? So, locals would have a slightly easier chance of getting their own free parking? It doesn’t get at the basic problem of way too much parking demand for free parking. Until a big chunk of the curb is metered there will be curbside parking shortages in high demand neighborhoods like Downtown Brooklyn. 

  • shoup be doop

    well if residential permits convey the idea that people driving to the arena have Zero chance of getting a free on-street space they would be somewhat useful.
    probably discourage some amount of trips and would result in less traffic circling for spots

  • Larry Littlefield

    How about you?

  • Streetsman

    Unbelievable that anyone is behind a policy of encouraging driving to and from this site. Have they seen Atlantic Ave or Flatbush Ave at rush hours? What makes anyone think the streets in the area could handle any more traffic than they already do? Not to mention the idiocy of committing so much land and so much asphalt to something that is only used for 4 hours, about 40 days a year. The strangest part is that all of his constituents live within about 2.5 miles of the site and can all get there easily by train, bus, bike, taxi, or walking. It’s like the assemblyman for the Upper West Side lobbying for more parking at Madison Square Garden. The only impact for his district would be more traffic from people driving through.

  • Streetsman

    Unbelievable that anyone is behind a policy of encouraging driving to and from this site. Have they seen Atlantic Ave or Flatbush Ave at rush hours? What makes anyone think the streets in the area could handle any more traffic than they already do? Not to mention the idiocy of committing so much land and so much asphalt to something that is only used for 4 hours, about 40 days a year. The strangest part is that all of his constituents live within about 2.5 miles of the site and can all get there easily by train, bus, bike, taxi, or walking. It’s like the assemblyman for the Upper West Side lobbying for more parking at Madison Square Garden. The only impact for his district would be more traffic from people driving through.

  • Ronald Shoup

    I agree with shoup be doop, below.

    Also, once the RPP’s are established, the price can change over time. They don’t have to be free or dirt cheap forever and, depending on how the revenue gets used, I think local residents and businesses would see the value in more expensive RPP’s, as per Shoup’s experience in Pasadena and other places.

    The hard part is getting the program started. Let’s not quibble about the exact correct price. Let’s just get it started and prevent thousands of people from driving in every night to cruise for free parking.

  • Danae Oratowski

    Streetsman:

    The arena is supposed to have about 220 events per year. 

  • Jeffrey

    Tell him yourself:
    http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/James-F-Brennan/contact/
    I called his Albany office and legislative aide said she knew nothing about it.

  • kevd

    LL – I get your point but am confused by your numbers.
    “which is why 18,000 seat arenas don’t have 18,000 parking spaces, even in Texas” would make perfect sense to me.

    I’m wondering what the 45,000 number is referring to, as it just isn’t possible to have 0.4 people per vehicle.

    Oh, and when I used to drive to Basketball games (not in NY) there was always 3 or 4 people in car.  

  • Anonymous

    The point isn’t to make it easier for residents to park on the street, but to make it impossible for others and discourage driving in.

    I’m curious what a properly implemented residential parking permit program could have on all the Brooklyn residents with Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia license plates!

  • Anonymous

    When I stopped into his office after his bizarre misinterpretation of the bike lane survey results, his people claimed to know nothing about it, and promised to get back to me.  Needless to say, I never heard from them.

  • JoAnne Simon

    At the risk of appearing to disagree with myself, I point out that Brennan is correct in that FCRC’s and ESDC’s renegotiated agreement in 2009, which allowed the delay of the project, also eliminated Ratner’s obligation to
    provide 2300 spaces of underground parking. There would have been an on-street parking problem under the original plan, but that is now magnified by having eliminated a large proportion of the spaces that would have been below ground. Therefore, there is some sense in requiring FCRC to find alternative spaces outside the footprint. However, as I stressed to Noah, many of the neighborhoods which will be impacted by Atlantic Yards parking (220+ days a year, and for circus days, 3 times a day), ALREADY desperately need (and have proven the need for) residential permit parking RPP).  Atlantic Yards will only make it much worse for them and give to those neighborhoods whose parking woes are currently a bit less intense, a giant increase in their need for RPP. 

    I referred Noah to the neighborhoods’ joint Contract with the Community, a multi-community effort to respond to the Downtown Brooklyn Plan. The package of parking improvements and policy changes was comprehensive as any solution must be.  Atlantic Yards’ parking and congestion pressures call to mind the need for comprehensive solutions, such as those we advanced in 2003-04. Some features of a comprehensive solution need legislation at city and state levels (and RPP is an example of that).  I for one, will continue to work towards effectuating those goals and disincentivizing gratuitous traffic that degrades the transportation networks in and around downtown Brooklyn neighborhoods and incentivizing the use of mass transit. I am sure Jim Brennan would think that a fine idea as well.

    My main concern with the reported “proposal” (which I understand to be more in line with thinking out loud/throwing out for discussion) is that if the powers that be get the idea that one can trade the need for RPP with off-street parking, we are truly cooked. They are not exchangeable, but each is a piece of a comprehensive approach that includes other pieces as well, including pricing to advance public policy goals.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Typo.  I started to write the comment for a 45,000-seat stadium, but decided to go with an 18,000 seat arena instead.

  • J:Lai

    I agree 100% on the need for residential parking permits, and not just around the arena but city-wide.

    I own a car (occasional driver) and live outside Manhattan, and right now I pay a cost in time and aggravation searching for “free” street parking.  Residential parking permits should be priced just high enough to make someone like me, a marginal car owner, think seriously about getting rid of the car (or a household with 2 cars that could get by with 1.)  Someone who truly needs their vehicle will not be priced out, and will gain quite a bit of time if a few on street spots are freed up.

    The neighborhoods with very high vehicle ownership rates, the most suburban parts of the city, typically also have large amounts of off-street parking (curb cuts, garages in private homes, etc) so permits would have the biggest impact on closer-in neighborhoods with transit options.

  • J:Lai

    I agree 100% on the need for residential parking permits, and not just around the arena but city-wide.

    I own a car (occasional driver) and live outside Manhattan, and right now I pay a cost in time and aggravation searching for “free” street parking.  Residential parking permits should be priced just high enough to make someone like me, a marginal car owner, think seriously about getting rid of the car (or a household with 2 cars that could get by with 1.)  Someone who truly needs their vehicle will not be priced out, and will gain quite a bit of time if a few on street spots are freed up.

    The neighborhoods with very high vehicle ownership rates, the most suburban parts of the city, typically also have large amounts of off-street parking (curb cuts, garages in private homes, etc) so permits would have the biggest impact on closer-in neighborhoods with transit options.

  • J:Lai

    residential permits would make it easier for locals to find street parking, by eliminating the demand from non-residents (at least those not abusing placards.)  However, don’t underestimate the potential impact of even a nominal fee.

    There are marginal car owners (or 2nd car owners) who don’t need the car but keep it for occasional use (I am one of them.)  If you are at the margin, even a small increase in the carrying cost of owning a vehicle can induce you to get rid of it.  And it only takes a small percentage decline in demand for street parking to make it much easier for the remaining drivers to find parking, thus eliminating cruising around the block, idling during alternate side hours, and other time wasting habits.

    Also, as station44025 remarked, all the car owners who have registered their vehicles out of state would have to register in NY if they want a residential permit – a significant cost.