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Department of City Planning

Will DCP Withstand the Real Estate Lobby Assault on Parking Maximums?

At last week’s Transportation 2030 conference, Real Estate Board of New York Senior Vice President Michael Slattery made clear that his industry wants to eliminate one of the bedrock policies of traffic management in the New York City core. As Streetsblog reported last month, REBNY is mobilizing against the parking maximums which have helped to hold Manhattan traffic in check for a generation. Slattery went public with REBNY's vision at Friday's conference, articulating the real estate lobby's belief that fulfilling so-called market demand for more parking spots will aid new construction.

Amidst a discussion of Manhattan’s parking maximums, Slattery suggested that the time has come to raise the limits on the amount of parking allowed in residential buildings, which the city enacted in the early 1980s in response to lawsuits brought under the Clean Air Act. "Despite regulations, auto ownership is rising," Slattery asserted, echoing a draft study from the Department of City Planning that experts say is riddled with flaws. "Cars and trucks are a regular part of city life and we have to recognize the value they create.”

In addition to faulty DCP studies, Slattery is relying on logic that will harm New York. REBNY is betting that consumers buying apartments in the most transit-rich part of the country will pay a premium for in-house parking (upwards of $16,000 per space) instead of using subways and buses. New York loses in this scenario. When new residents decide to opt out of the very transit system that made their property valuable in the first place, the city loses a rider with a vested interest in sustaining transit in the city. Value is destroyed and New York takes a step toward becoming Houston.

The Department of City Planning seems to be in danger of caving in to real estate industry demands to eliminate parking maximums. At last Friday’s discussion, DCP's Howard Slatkin did tout the use of zoning to promote sustainability: allowing for more density where there is transit and less density where residents are more apt to drive. But he also acknowledged City Planning’s desire to accommodate Manhattan developers.

Slatkin told the audience to anticipate the December release of a DCP study about automobile ownership that will explain where the agency seeks to change parking regulations, and where they won't be touched. It may include both notable reforms and egregious backsliding.

In stark contrast to DCP, Bruce Schaller of the Department of Transportation demonstrated that at least one part of New York City government understands how parking policy can affect traffic and congestion. Following in the steps of San Francisco’s revolutionary SFPark system, New York is also finding, through DOT's Park Smart program, that as prices for parking go up during high demand times of day, more curb space becomes available and drivers spend less time cruising for parking.

The panel also included two people with vested interests in curbside space: Carl Hum, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and Vincent Marino, delivery truck driver and representative of Teamsters Local 917. Hum stressed the importance of parking meters and the availability of curbside spaces for businesses in east and south Brooklyn. He said that he still has member businesses complain to him about eliminating metered parking on Sundays – a move that hurt their bottom line because customers no longer had spots available to park for short shopping visits.

Marino stressed that delivery truck drivers never want to double park but do so under pressure to make their deliveries on time. They would benefit greatly from more curbside space to pull up. Perhaps at the next forum Marino and his fellow delivery drivers will voice support for parking-pricing reforms that could make curbside space more abundant.

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