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Air Quality

State Opposes City Plan for Hell’s Kitchen Parking

In June we reported on the city's effort to bring some 20,000 additional parking spaces to the Hudson Yards area on the far West Side, via a rezoning provision adopted in 2005. Though it's a remnant of the failed stadium plan, the Bloomberg administration nonetheless intends to hold on the parking component, going so far as to defend itself against a related lawsuit by claiming that the city's carbon monoxide levels are declining. (Not surprisingly, neighborhood folk aren't taking the city's word for it.)

Four months ago it appeared the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) was cooperating with the city by attempting to remove references to parking from its Clean Air Act State Implementation Plan (SIP). Back then the DEC claimed that parking should not be considered part of the SIP since the
city was not legally required to consider parking as part of its
compliance strategy.

Now, however, it looks like the state has changed course, according to a report from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign:

Officials at the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation say DEC is resisting New York City's efforts to increase parking in the Hudson Yards/Hell's Kitchen area of Manhattan. The area, along with the rest of Manhattan below 60th street, is currently subject to restrictions in the number of off-street parking spaces allowed as part of NY's State Implementation Plan (SIP) for attaining carbon monoxide (CO) levels in accordance with EPA standards. The City raised the level of allowable parking in a 2005 zoning change, essentially changing maximum parking restrictions into minimum parking requirements. The direct conflict between the new zoning and the SIP forced the City to seek a revision of the SIP to remove the parking program, and also got it hit by a lawsuit.

In short, the City claims to have attained EPA CO standards without the aid of the parking restrictions making the parking restrictions unnecessary and burdensome on planned development of the area. In response to the City's requested SIP revision, NYDEC has asked for an update regarding the status of a parking study mandated by the SIP; the chimerical study has been "in the works" since 1979. Although the meaning of "update" remains ambiguous, a source says the DEC won't entertain the City's request without some accounting for the study.

Furthermore, the DEC is studying the possibility that the parking restrictions in the SIP may apply not only to CO, but also particulate matter and ozone, neither of which are within EPA target levels for NYC. If this is the case, the City's CO attainment may be moot. It remains a mystery why the City is pushing so hard for more parking. The zoning was changed when NYC was a contender for the 2012 Olympics and had proposed building a stadium over the Hudson Yards. With the bid a memory, the zoning change is now a relic. With PlaNYC, congestion pricing and the great promise of progress looming over the City, to encourage more traffic-inducing parking spaces is counterproductive at best.

In related news, the MTA could soon be accepting public comment on those closely guarded Hudson Yards development proposals.

Photo: hotdogger13/Flickr

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