Times Architecture Critic Calls For Eliminating NYC Parking Minimums

Times critic Michael Kimmelman and NYC Planning Director Amanda Burden on a walking tour of the South Bronx last year. Image: ##http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/04/a-walk-in-the-south-bronx-with-the-planning-commissioner-and-our-architecture-critic/##NYT##

The fight to eliminate parking minimums in New York City just went mainstream.

As part of a wide-ranging exploration of parking lots and public space set to run in Sunday’s paper, New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman signed on to the growing list of people urging New York City’s Department of City Planning to scrap the costly and outdated requirements that force new developments in most of the city to include parking. The whole article is well worth a read, but here’s Kimmelman’s NYC-specific recommendation:

For big cities like New York it is high time to abandon outmoded zoning codes from the auto-boom days requiring specific ratios of parking spaces per housing unit, or per square foot of retail space. These rules about minimum parking spaces have driven up the costs of apartments for developers and residents, damaged the environment, diverted money that could have gone to mass transit and created a government-mandated cityscape that’s largely unused. We keep adding to the glut of parking lots. Crain’s recently reported on the largely empty garages at new buildings like Avalon Fort Greene, a 42-story luxury tower near downtown Brooklyn, and 80 DeKalb Avenue, up the block, both well occupied, both of which built hundreds of parking spaces to woo tenants. Garages near Yankee Stadium, built over the objections of Bronx neighbors appalled at losing parkland for yet more parking lots, turn out never to be more than 60 percent full, even on game days. The city has lost public space, the developers have lost a fortune.

Kimmelman hits the nail on the head, noting that the parking requirements are an environmental disaster in America’s most car-free city, an obstacle to the construction of badly-needed housing, and often incompatible with good urban design. In calling for the outright elimination of parking minimums, Kimmelman goes far beyond the reforms being hinted at by DCP. Right now, DCP is only considering a reduction in parking minimums and only in a few neighborhoods near the Manhattan core. No actual proposal to cut the “inner ring” parking requirements has been released, though DCP has proposed eliminating parking minimums for affordable housing in the Manhattan core.

Kimmelman’s endorsement should carry weight at DCP, however. DCP director Amanda Burden prides herself on her commitment to urban design and she took Kimmelman on a tour of the South Bronx for his inaugural article as architecture critic. If anyone can persuade Burden to act boldly, it might be him.

  • J

    Burden has been the planning director since 2002. PlaNYC has been around since 2007. Everyone knows what needs to be done. What is taking so long? We’re supposed to be world leaders.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Persuading Amanda Burden is not the problem.  Persuading Archie Bunker is.

    What I said here years ago was reported to have been confirmed by City Planning — if there is a fear that new residents will compete for his on-street parking, Archie will demand that new development be banned altogether.

    Without capped, resident-only permit parking for the overnight hours, with a low capped fee for those licensed and insured in an area on the date of enactment, what Streetsblog would propose the City Council would never enact.  The two political impossibilities are actually slightly less impossible together.

  • Cberthet

    Finally! 

    But we really need certain parking minimums, albeit for a different kind of parking , focused on goods and services movements and for HOV vehicles (buses) which are becoming more and more numerous in the city with nowhere to park, load adn unload.

    Imagine a world with all delivery vehicles(UPS fedex fresh direct)  and service vehicles (time warner, the plumber)  parked under the buildings they serve, two steps away from the elevator , at no cost to them…. No double parking in the street no idling no tickets and much less congestion. 
    Today , parking rules prevent trucks from parking there. 

    Same for buses which are a form of mass transit even if they are privately operated. where should they park? New york is a Disney world where one forgot to provide for bus parking. Create parking for buses and minivans , which spare us about 50 cars on the street. 

    So rather than taking something away  we ought to analyze the current and future needs for storage and replace what we have with what we need. 

    Most critical, parking is a transportation issue not a zoning issue. It is long overdue that the responsibility to establish parking rules be transferred to the DOT . That is the first institutional change that should be made. 

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Imagine a world with all delivery vehicles(UPS fedex fresh direct)  and service vehicles (time warner, the plumber)  parked under the buildings they serve, two steps away from the elevator , at no cost to them.”

    All post-1960 office buildings have required loading.  I believe if the loading bays were surveyed, you’d have vehicles parked in them, forcing the loading onto the street.

  • Bolwerk

    @2b7db7d833c6fe2cd02ad042694e30ac:disqus : we shouldn’t have buses parking all over the place either.  Our surface transportation system should be first world enough to avoid such things. And I don’t see why utility service trucks should park for free anymore than anyone else.  The fact is, if they spent less time stuck in traffic they’d save more on fuel than they ever could on parking.

  • Bolwerk

    Oh, and, BTW, Jimmy Vacca will protect the parking minimums.  Indeed, he’d probably give his life for them. 

  • Cberthet

    Residential buildings do not have those and they are generating tons of deliveries..

  • Cberthet

    Right on. Bus parking should be in specific areas. We are better off having private developers or parking operators making less money and getting streets free of double parking, idling and congestion…

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Residential buildings do not have those and they are generating tons of deliveries.”
    You’re right.  That wasn’t true in the past, and there are no such requirements.  But such requirements would have to be limited to really large buildings, unless you want a bunch of driveways.

    Manhattan has always had grocery deliveries, true?  My friend had that as a job in the 1970s.  But he used a pushcart, which he would leave in the lobby near the doorman while hauling up the groceries.  Not a Fresh Direct truck.

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