Developer TF Cornerstone has begun the process of getting rezonings and special permits from the City Planning Commission for its residential and retail project on 11th Avenue and 57th Street, which would replace a string of auto dealerships and a 1,000-space parking garage with a new project containing either 395 or 500 parking spaces, depending on the retail tenants.
TF Cornerstone’s project — 1,189 apartments plus 42,000 square feet of retail that may or may not include car dealerships — would be a step up for the site, but whether the garage has 500 or 395 spaces, it would still be more than what’s allowed under the city’s Manhattan Core parking regulations, which cap by-right “accessory parking” for mixed-use projects at 225 spaces. Even that cap, well below the proposed 500 or 395-space garage, is still higher than peak parking demand estimated in the project’s draft environmental impact statement — 150 spaces.
What’s notable about the project is that it approaches parking differently than city-led developments: It would probably look a lot worse if the Economic Development Corporation were in charge. The city’s economic development arm regularly compels developers to preserve any parking that already exists at a given site and increase the parking supply beyond what zoning normally allows or requires.
Even if TF Cornerstone gets a special permit for its garage and builds by-right accessory parking on top of that, the combined 725 spaces would still fall below what’s currently on site. That’s something EDC simply doesn’t do in most of its development projects.
At the Lower East Side’s Essex Crossing development, formerly known as the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, EDC got a special permit for a 500-space public parking garage, exceeding the project’s estimated demand for parking, the caps written into the zoning code, and the number of parking spaces already on the site.
At Flushing Commons, zoning mandated 700 spaces, but EDC made sure the project included 1,600 spaces — more than double the requirement — in an effort to replace existing on-site parking. EDC is pretty explicit about its desire to never eliminate a parking space: For a project in Harlem that would replace an under-capacity garage, it told developers to “maintain as many parking spaces as possible.” EDC declined to comment on the TF Cornerstone project.
At TF Cornerstone’s 57th Street site, the existing 1,000-space parking garage is only 70 percent full during weekdays and overnights, and even lower on Saturdays. Average occupancy in the 18 off-street garages within a quarter-mile of the site peaks at 80 percent during early weekday afternoons and bottoms out at 36 percent on Saturdays.
TF Cornerstone, relying on the city’s environmental review guidelines, said in the project’s draft environmental impact statement earlier this month that reducing the amount of parking on site won’t be a big issue because with fewer public parking spaces, more people will turn to transit instead of driving.
Maybe the next mayor should try telling that to his EDC.