The Manhattan core parking regulations, most notable for setting limits on parking construction below 96th Street since 1982, have been an effective tool for reducing traffic in New York’s congested center. But the rules have also been plagued by loopholes and strange inconsistencies, like the persistence of minimum parking requirements for affordable housing. Recently, the Department of City Planning proposed significant adjustments to the rules, and while community boards have weighed in, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has yet to say anything on the issue.
The city’s proposals include: eliminating parking requirements for affordable housing; improving utilization of the existing parking supply by converting accessory parking garages, currently intended only for a building’s residents or tenants, into public garages; greater flexibility in the permit process for developers seeking to build garages; and finally releasing developers from the parking minimums that apply to buildings constructed between 1961 and 1982.
Most of those changes have drawn support from parking policy experts and neighborhood groups (though there is some dispute about whether the accessory parking change will lead to less traffic or more). The exception is the looser permit process, which could lead to an escalation of parking construction. This is where Stringer could step in and make a difference. Community Board 4, for instance, passed a resolution opposing DCP’s proposal to lower the bar for developers looking to build public garages. It is urging the department to strengthen the requirements for a public garage permit by asking developers to examine the surrounding parking vacancy rates and consider the traffic generated by a new garage.
But it’s now been four months since DCP released its proposal, with no comment from Stringer. While he is under no legal obligation to weigh in, the Manhattan core parking regulations are a key environmental and transportation policy affecting the majority of the borough. Community Boards 1 through 8 had all passed resolutions regarding the new regs by mid-January [PDF].
The City Planning Commission held a hearing on the proposed parking reforms on January 21; a vote is scheduled for next Wednesday, March 20.
Stringer’s silence stands in contrast to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who released his recommendations for parking reform in Downtown Brooklyn two months after the DCP proposal was released and two months before the planning commission voted. DCP incorporated some of Markowitz’s suggestions, most notably allowing the new, lower parking minimums to apply retroactively, so empty parking spots can be repurposed for other uses.
Stringer’s office wouldn’t indicate if or when it would release its recommendations, only saying through a spokesperson that it “has the option of submitting comments to either the City Planning Commission or the City Council.”