NYC’s Top Parking Subsidizer, Seth Pinsky, Moves On

Seth Pinsky, whose legacy as head of the New York City Economic Development Corporation will be years of parking-induced traffic in city neighborhoods, with taxpayers footing the bill, is headed to the private sector.

Seth Pinsky. Photo: NYCEDC

The news came this morning, via announcements from City Hall and RXR Realty, which hired Pinsky.

During Pinsky’s five-year tenure, NYCEDC incentivized and financed the inclusion of suburban-style parking in development projects across the city, from Flushing to the Lower East Side, Downtown Brooklyn to Staten Island. The ethos that prioritized parking and attendant motor vehicle traffic for some of the densest neighborhoods in the most transit-rich city in America was summed up in a statement from Pinsky himself.

“The worst thing we could do,” Pinsky told Streetsblog in 2010, “is create projects that create a parking need and then not provide that parking.”

Outdated environmental review regulations factored into some of EDC’s parking-saturated developments. But there are plenty of examples of EDC-sponsored projects, large and small, that were the product of an autocentric mindset and plain old political patronage. To name a few:

The grandaddy of all Pinsky-era EDC projects is probably Flushing Commons, where EDC required the development of nearly 1,600 parking spaces — some 500,000 square feet of vehicle storage — in the heart of downtown Flushing, one of the most transit-accessible areas in the city. Not only did the agency preserve all the spots from the municipal parking lot that Flushing Commons replaced, Pinsky’s EDC and the city added 900 spaces — and EDC and the City Council handed over millions of dollars to make parking cheaper during the construction phase.

As exemplified by Flushing Commons, EDC remained out of step with PlaNYC for the entire second half of the Bloomberg administration, while street design caught up with the 21st century.

Pinsky will be succeeded by Kyle Kimball, the current EDC executive director. Kimball won’t have time to leave his mark in six months. The question is whether the next mayor will do something different with EDC, or carry on with policies that have saddled NYC neighborhoods with extraneous parking and auto traffic.

  • J

    I don’t understand this notion that NYC depends on lots of parking. If that were true, most of NYC would be completely undesirable real estate, with some of the lowest value in the country. The fact is, NYC is so valuable precisely because it hasn’t been built around oceans of parking, and developers are clambering over each other to invest in NYC. The EDC, however, has acted as if NYC is a downtrodden city, and is over-eager to spur any sort of investment, regardless of how detrimental it is to the city.

    Pinksy did his damndest to overturn NYC’s urban appeal, awkwardly smashing suburban-style development into our urban fabric. His legacy of ugly (and empty) parking garages and excess traffic will be with us for many decades to come. Good riddance.

  • Ethan Kent

    The approach to economic development under his tenure was development-led and design-led, rather than about supporting people and places first. This narrow focus also worked to perpetuate the car-oriented planning of NYC. EDC could have driven more demand for economic development by planning for public destinations first, attracting investment that confirms to, and supports, the public realm of the existing communities. A city built around public destinations would not be anit-car but for a strong public realm and local economy. Such spaces would inevitably be justifiably difficult to drive through and more compatible with walking, transit and bicycling. Many of the projects EDC promoted look great for car commercials and for wealthy drivers that prefer friction-less streets. Lots to improve upon at EDC and hopefully he can do better things at RXR, a firm that has showed great interest in a Placemaking approach to development.

  • steely

    Kimball is a park sloper who values walking and biking. Like other Bloombergites who are finishing strong, he could set a new course for EDC by Dec

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