EDC Chief Seth Pinsky: Minimizing Parking “The Worst Thing We Could Do”

SethPinsky.pngSeth Pinsky, NYCEDC president. Image: NYCEDC.

The NYC Economic Development Corporation’s predilection for suburban-style, parking-filled projects earned it last year’s Streetsie for worst city agency. Well, now we’ve got some more insight into what makes EDC tick.

After an event at the New School last night, NYCEDC president Seth Pinsky told Streetsblog why his organization’s projects include so many parking spaces. "The worst thing we could do," he said, "is create projects that create a parking need and then not provide that parking."

Predictions about "parking need," however, are consistently flawed. At one of the EDC’s own projects, the Gateway Center in the Bronx, far more shoppers take transit than developers predicted, leaving the parking lot underutilized and creating a hostile environment for people who walk. In the words of parking guru Donald Shoup, "In trying to foretell the demand for parking, urban planners resemble the Wizard of Oz, deceived by his own tricks."

According to Pinsky, EDC takes its figures for parking demand straight from the legally-mandated environmental review process. So, some of the problem here is embedded in that process, which has prompted calls to revise local environmental review laws [PDF]. 

But more and more, EDC simply appears to be falling behind the times on planning policy. Just this week, the Health Department, City Planning, DDC, DOT, and the Office of Management and Budget released Active Design Guidelines advising planners to "design car parking so as to reduce unnecessary automobile travel, particularly when walking, bicycling, and public transit are convenient alternatives."

We have, supposedly, progressed beyond the era when city government equated traffic with economic activity. But while the rest of the city is trying to reduce the number of cars on the street and play to New York’s inherent strengths as a walkable metropolis, EDC still seems intent on inducing more traffic and giving autos even more space than they need.

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