Police Academy 2: Starring a 3,000-Car Garage

police_academy.jpgCadets will have a hard time getting to New York City’s next police academy, now under construction, without driving. Image: NYT/Michael Fieldman Architects and Perkins+Will.

Last week brought another prime example of Bloomberg administration schizophrenia on urban sustainability. After his flight back from the Copenhagen climate summit, the mayor’s first stop was a former auto pound in College Point, Queens, where he met up with NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly to break ground on the city’s new $750 million police academy.

The facility will be designed to attain a LEED Silver rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. The press release touted its green roofs, rainwater harvesting, and energy-saving building envelopes. Good stuff. But how green can this complex be when it also contains a 3,000-space parking garage?

The current police academy, located on East 20th Street, is a convenient walk from the subway at Union Square or 23rd Street. At the new site, the nearest subway station is more than a mile away. Those 3,000 parking spaces will be a huge enticement for police recruits to drive to the academy, and they’ll come at enormous taxpayer expense.

Consider: St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx plans to spend $25.7 million (including $19.8 million in tax-free stimulus bonds) to build a 605-space garage. Assuming the costs at College Point are roughly the same, that works out to more than $125 million upfront for the police academy garage. Then there’s all the taxpayer money that will go into keeping this parking deck clean, well-lit, and operating smoothly. The price tag varies, but running a commercial garage costs in the neighborhood of $500 to $800 annually per space, according to the Victoria Transport Policy Institute [PDF]. Let’s be conservative with this NYPD garage and go with $300 per space each year. If you’re talking about a 3,000-space garage — and we are — that’s about $1 million to publicly finance driving to the new "state-of-the-art" police academy. Every year, forever.

NYPD’s public information office didn’t have an answer when we asked whether parking will be free at the new academy. We have to surmise that it will be. The city, after all, only expects 2,000 recruits in each class. A 3,000-space garage does not appear to be designed, then, with inducements to carpool or take transit in mind.

If the city did put a price on parking at the new academy, it could probably build a garage half the size of the one it’s moving ahead with, according to parking experts we consulted. That’s about $60 million in construction savings and at least $500,000 in annual operating savings. (Intriguingly, the EIS for this project calls for a smaller, 1,800-car garage, which raises questions about the legality of a 3,000-car garage.)

At the presser for the groundbreaking last week, Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler told reporters that the city would talk to the MTA about increasing bus service to the police academy. Coming amidst a total meltdown in transit funding, the suggestion seems far-fetched. But if the city had steady revenue coming from its parking deck, it would feel a bit more plausible, and the next police academy would be significantly more green.

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