Zero Parking Means More Affordable Housing for Fort Greene

Plans for affordable and supportive housing wouldn't have been possible if the city had insisted on its parking requirements. Image:
Plans for affordable and supportive housing at the Navy Green wouldn't have been possible if the city had insisted on its parking requirements. Image: ## Local##

Last month, builders broke ground on Fort Greene’s Navy Green project, which, when completed, will add 458 homes between the Navy Yard and the BQE. A full three-quarters of the project will be affordable to families earning between 30 and 130 percent of the area median income, and 97 of those residences will be supportive housing, offering social services in addition to shelter.

Such affordable prices for housing wouldn’t have been possible had Navy Green been subject to the area’s parking requirements. Nor would the 32,000 square feet of open space included in the project. Without an exemption granted by the city, said the project’s developer, parking would have replaced a playground and increased the cost of each unit.

Developer Martin Dunn explained that each parking space came with a direct tradeoff in terms of open space and affordability. “To meet the parking requirements that would normally be required,” he said, “if we made half the open space parking, we’d still have to build structured parking.”

Structured parking is expensive to build. Nationally, the average construction cost of a single structured space is $16,000, and in New York it is almost certainly higher. Building a garage, said Dunn, would have required either increasing rents or asking the government for extra subsidies. “So not having structured parking made it more affordable,” he concluded.

Even if the parking requirements were relaxed for Navy Green, including any parking at all would have taken away the project’s gardens and play spaces. Most affordable housing puts its parking at grade, explained Dunn, because that’s the cheapest option. With only so many square feet to go around, “there is a direct tradeoff between open space and parking.”

The city government concurred with Dunn’s assessment. A spokeswoman for the Department of Housing Preservation and Development said that including parking was financially infeasible on the site, considering the needs for affordability and open space. HPD, therefore, applied for a mayoral override of the parking requirement, which was granted. “The city agencies were all very supportive,” Dunn recalled.

Though the project will be entirely without off-street parking, it will include bike storage in all of the multi-family buildings. The new Flushing Avenue bike lane travels right by the project site, as do a number of bus routes. The first building is scheduled to open in December 2011.

In earlier affordable projects, Dunn said that he hadn’t taken the same zero-parking approach. At the nearby Myrtle Avenue Apartments, for example, zoning required that they build parking for 25 percent of the units, leading to eight spaces. At the price of $25 per month, there have never been more than two spaces rented, said Dunn. The company could have built a bigger playground instead of those empty parking spots. “We’ve felt bad that we built that parking every day since,” he said.

  • v

    This is great news.

  • Wow, a developer actually gets it–and the government doesn’t stand in the way.

  • After finally finishing Shoup’s book I am completely in awe of what this project has achieved. Hopefully it can be used as a template for further affordable housing and then just further housing.

  • Streetsman

    This reads like an April Fool’s Day post. This actually happened in New York?

  • Danny G

    Awesome. If every developer knew that mayoral overrides to reduce parking would get an instant green light, you’d change the whole game.

  • Corinne Fine

    Martin Dunn continues to apply his high standards to every project. NY and its boroughs are fortunate to have such an outstanding developer!

  • Larry Littlefield

    “If every developer knew that mayoral overrides to reduce parking would get an instant green light, you’d change the whole game.”

    Every developer worth is salt knows you can split the lot and eliminate parking in R6-R8 zones. The question is, do developers of market rate units believe more affluent people will buy them without parking? And do neighbors know affluent people without parking won’t have cars and compete for their on street spaces?

    Share car firms like Zipcar. And residential parking programs with limits and automatic renewal rights for incumbents could address those issues.

  • Danny G

    Touchet, Larry. I hope Commissioner Burden got your memo.

  • J. Mork

    It’s a 15-minute walk to the G-train — so this place might end up being bike heaven.

  • TKO

    Though there seems to be no commision on the quality of the architecture. Why does the city continue to allow cookie cutter design to continue. These buildings could be in any city. There is no sense of place. I bet the air conditioners will be Feders.

  • The site is near nothing. ‘Bike heaven’ my foot. It seems like a cruel joke to build a 458-family development a 15-20-minute walk from the G train, and a 20-minute walk from the nearest supermarket. I’m sure that the residents will be at the community board, pleading for 90-degree parking over the underused sidewalk, before too long.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “‘Bike heaven’ my foot. It seems like a cruel joke to build a 458-family development a 15-20-minute walk from the G train, and a 20-minute walk from the nearest supermarket.”

    Well, it will certainly put the potential of walking and biking to the test. It is a long distance from things on foot, but not by bicycle.

    All those north Brooklyn waterfront developments have the same issue — far from established commercial corridors and the subway measured by walking distance. It’s bike or drive.

  • Larry, I don’t think there are enough doctrinaire cycling advocates in Brooklyn who will willingly bike to work (either straight, or as part of a mode-share with transit), then bike to school or child care, then bike for groceries, then bike for clothes and housewares and durable goods shopping, then bike for entertainment. With all that mileage to cover, I humbly anticipate that most folks would buy an automobile, and I wouldn’t blame them.

  • J:Lai

    The original plans called for about 8,000 sq ft of commercial space.
    While not huge, that’s enough for some modest options for groceries and other necessaries to open up within the site itself.

    Agreed that the transit options here suck, and that will make car ownership more attractive despite the lack of dedicated parking.

  • On the bright side, perhaps the lack of parking will increase demand and pressure for improved transit options in that neighborhood?

  • Spencer

    Jonathan, ‘the lack of parking will increase demand and pressure for improved transit options in that neighborhood’. What a radical idea! Instead of calling the development a joke and suggesting the residents give up and buy a car, you could get behind the idea that PT might just come to them. A housing development moving (on foot, bike or PT) in the right direction.

  • tom

    I would bet a member of the local Community Board upon reading this news will amend their next meeting’s agenda for consideration of how the surrounding area in Fort Greene is going to get screwed by the new parking need that’s being dumped on them.

  • will

    This is a complete no-brainer . . . especially in a subsidized housing situation. Why should we use tax dollars to build parking spaces for people who are already using a tax subsidy to put the roof over their own heads. I don’t have a car . . . because it does not fit my budget. If you can’t pay for your own roof, a car does not fit your budget either. Will the so-called “affordable-housing” advocates ever understand this simple concept?

  • It would be visionary to see a coordinated bundling of housing and transit–i.e., that as part of building new housing, new transit services are also provided.

  • huh

    Why aren’t the apartment buildings mixed use (Residential-Commercial)? That would bring supermarkets and other needs plus provide some jobs.

  • I fail to see how ‘the right direction’ includes building subsidized housing near nothing, then petitioning for more money to be spent to support the residents’ transportation needs. As Jarrett Walker argues, “Be On The Way.” It would make more sense to build a 460-family complex on top of transit that already exists. That would support local businesses more directly, as well as allow for other Brooklyn residents to shop at the new stores in the new development.

    Of course, the idea of building housing adjacent to Brooklyn transit hubs has already been suggested, planned, and approved, to widespread public dismay.

  • Charles Siegel

    There aren’t many doctrinaire cycling advocates, but there are lots of ordinary people who would bike everywhere if it were safe and if it were the most convenient way to get around – as most ordinary people do in Amsterdam for exactly those reasons.

  • Charles Siegel

    You want to preserve the transit system in amber and never expand it? The transit that already exists is there because the city expanded the transit system during the first few decades of the 20th century. Lucky you weren’t around back then.

    If we want to build enough new housing to deal with New York’s affordability crisis, it will require a massive expansion of transit.


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