This morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the appointment of Michael Schlein as chair of the city’s Economic Development Corporation. Schlein, a Wall Street insider with close ties to the mayor, joins EDC President Kyle Kimball atop the agency’s leadership. EDC has a terrible track record of subsidizing parking garages and overseeing mega-projects with acres of excess parking. The contours of a new direction under de Blasio — perhaps one with less parking — are still taking shape.
In recent years, when EDC wasn’t financing parking construction directly, its projects often required builders to not only replace existing parking spaces as part of a new development, but also mandated more spaces than prescribed by the zoning code. The result: Gargantuan, pedestrian-hostile garages sit mostly empty in East Harlem and the Bronx, and increased development costs drive up prices in neighborhoods from the Lower East Side to Flushing.
Schlein hasn’t offered many hints about what he will do at EDC, but has said that New York should decrease its reliance on tax incentives, which EDC often uses to grease the way for parking construction. “I think we no longer need to use tax incentives to get companies and people to come to New York City,” he told the New York Times. “New York City is a magnet for talent and employees, and I completely agree with Mayor de Blasio’s view that we need to be more prudent in how we use that tool.”
Schlein replaces Victor F. Ganzi, former head of The Hearst Corporation, who has served as chairman since 2009. The board must approve all contracts and agreements, so as chair, Schlein can exercise oversight and help set the tone, but he will be less involved in day-to-day operations than Kimball.
Kimball, appointed EDC president by Mayor Bloomberg last August and kept on by de Blasio, took over from Seth Pinsky last August. “The worst thing we could do is create projects that create a parking need and then not provide that parking,” Pinsky told Streetsblog in 2010. Asked about EDC’s parking policy last year, Pinsky talked about transit without once mentioning parking.
EDC development requests in recent months haven’t included large-scale parking requirements, though it’s not clear yet if that indicates a shift at EDC or just the nature of the small lot sizes of its recent projects.
Ultimately, both Schlein and Kimball will be following the mayor’s lead. During the campaign, de Blasio said city-sponsored development projects must cut down on their parking requirements. “We need to fundamentally reevaluate the amount of parking included in new developments,” he told StreetsPAC in response to a question about EDC. “That excess parking induces unnecessary driving, and it also adds costs to projects that make it more difficult to provide affordable housing in new construction.”
While the de Blasio administration has quickly made traffic safety a marquee issue, it’s been quiet on reforming parking requirements as part of its affordable housing and development goals. An affordable housing action plan is due from the mayor’s office on May 1.