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Department of City Planning

Planning Commission Approves Manhattan Core Parking Regulation Changes

2:45 PM EDT on March 21, 2013

Yesterday, the City Planning Commission approved modifications to off-street parking regulations in the Manhattan Core, below East 96th Street and West 110th Street. Significant changes to the city's only parking maximums, which have helped cut down on traffic in the city's congested core since 1982, are on track for final approval from the City Council. Although the final proposal itself has not been released to the public by the Department of City Planning, the commission gave its unanimous approval.

The changes include some positive developments, such as eliminating parking requirements for affordable housing, retroactively applying post-1982 parking maximums to earlier development (thereby allowing parking spots to be repurposed for other uses), and new regulations for automated garages.

Community Boards 1 through 8 have already weighed in [PDF]. While some boards offered single-page letters of support, others produced in-depth critiques of the Department of City Planning's proposal.

Community Boards 1, 2, 4, and 7, for example, expressed opposition to the more controversial changes, such as formally allowing accessory parking (which is intended to serve only building residents and visitors) to be opened to the public, and loosening the special permit process for building garages that exceed the maximums.

In a presentation on March 4 [PDF], DCP staff said the agency is tweaking the proposal to address some of these concerns. While the plan will continue to open accessory parking to public use, the special permit process for parking garages will be modified. The process will keep requirements for developers to state whether a new parking garage will increase traffic congestion (a requirement the proposal had initially discarded), and will allow the commission to consider vacancy levels in existing parking facilities surrounding a proposed garage. Supposedly, if they find there's already an ample supply of parking nearby, the commission may use that fact to deny a request.

Special permits would continue to be granted, however, as long as the planning commission deems the garage permit request to be "reasonable." "We think this description is entirely too vague," said CB 4 transportation committee co-chair Christine Berthet. "'Reasonable' is really not a standard."

So far, DCP has only shown the presentation about the updated parking proposal -- the specifics have yet to be released. "The devil is in the details," said Berthet. "Between the PowerPoint and the text amendment, it's a huge space to cross."

The full amendment could be released as soon as tomorrow. "The modified text amendment is currently being proofed and approved," said Michael Shilstone, a department spokesperson.

Borough President Scott Stringer has not yet expressed a public opinion on the proposed parking changes, a major transportation and environmental policy affecting the majority of the borough.

The City Council's zoning subcommittee may take up the proposal at its next meeting on April 3, followed by the land use committee the next day, though agendas have yet to be released.

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