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Will City Planning Commission Uphold Parking Maximums at St. Vincent’s?

5:08 PM EST on December 6, 2011

A rendering of the Rudin family plans for new condos at the site of St. Vincent's Hospital. Rudin wants to include 152 parking spaces, far more than allowed under the zoning or wanted by the community. Image: Rudin via WSJ.

The sides are lining up for and against the oversized parking garage that the Rudin family wants to build for its luxury apartments at the former St. Vincent's Hospital site in Greenwich Village. Supporting the request to exceed Manhattan's parking maximums is Borough President Scott Stringer. Opposing it are the community board and the urban planning advocates at the Municipal Art Society. Next month, the City Planning Commission will decide whether to ignore its own guidelines and grant a special permit raising the maximums for the Rudins.

The Rudins want to build 152 parking spaces for a 450 unit development. They are only allowed 98 by law. To get more, they need a special permit from the City Planning Commission.

Community Board 2 took a particularly strong anti-parking position, requesting that no parking at all be allowed in the development. The board's official resolution [PDF] lists a number of reasons for opposing the garage, from the creation of a fourth curb cut on a single block, to the safety of the many pedestrians walking through the neighborhood and the desire not to induce more traffic on downtown's congested streets. "Fewer people are driving in New York City," states the resolution. "There's an increase in use of alternative transportation modes and the encouragement of this approach (e.g. through bike share), which CB 2 supports." New parking lots aren't part of the community board's vision for the neighborhood.

The Municipal Art Society, meanwhile, has called attention to Rudin's funny math. As Streetsblog previously reported, to get a special permit, the developers need to show that there isn't enough parking in the area to meet the demand generated by the project. In the Village, that's just not the case. "When the residential units are expected to be built there will be 740 available overnight spaces and 154 available weekday midday spaces within a quarter mile radius of the site," wrote MAS in testimony submitted to the City Planning Commission [PDF]. "This is more than enough spaces to accommodate the 137 cars that the applicant is estimating will result from the addition of 450 new housing units."

Rudin attempted to claim that many of those available spaces shouldn't count, since they're meant to be used only by the residents of the buildings they're attached to, but Streetsblog and MAS each scouted the area and found that almost all of the nearby garages allow non-residents to park.

"In order to reduce the amount of traffic on West 12th Street, which is primarily a residential street; the number of proposed parking spaces should be reduced," recommended MAS.

However, Stringer, who can be strong on parking issues at times, relied heavily on the formal -- and generally problematic -- analyses put forward in Rudin's environmental impact statement [PDF]. He further admitted that there is enough empty garage space nearby to fit every new car predicted by Rudin's projections, but said that would lead to garages between 91 percent and 98 percent full, which he said was too much. Stringer did acknowledge the community's safety concerns and urged Rudin to install mirrors and audio-visual signals to alert pedestrians of crossing traffic.

The question now is whether the City Planning Commission, like Stringer, will defer to Rudin or look a little more closely at the numbers. The City Planning Commission is on the record stating that limiting the amount of off-street parking is "consistent with the objective of creating an area with a transit- and pedestrian-oriented character." What's more, the commission is only supposed to issue a special permit when necessary, which, as MAS showed, is not the case in this instance. Will City Planning stand up for preserving a quality walking environment?

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