Industry City Developer Thinks Sunset Park Waterfront Needs More Parking

The owner of Industry City, in background, says Sunset Park needs more parking. Photo: Google Maps
The owner of Industry City says Sunset Park needs more parking lots. Photo: Google Maps

A Sunset Park developer wants to use city land for a giant new parking lot, in what’s shaping up to be a test for Council Member Carlos Menchaca and the NYC Economic Development Corporation.

Industry City, which has 6 million square feet of industrial, office, and retail space in 16 buildings across more than 30 acres on the Sunset Park waterfront, is owned by a group of investors led by real estate firm Jamestown. Yesterday, the group announced a $1 billion redevelopment plan to attract employers in media, technology, fashion, and small-scale manufacturing.

The developers are asking for zoning changes to allow academic facilities, additional retail, and hotel uses at Industry City, which is zoned for manufacturing. They also have their eyes set on adding lots more parking.

The area has decent transit access, but it could be better. Industry City is near the express subway stop at 36th Street and Fourth Avenue and is served by three bus routes, including the crosstown B35 to Brownsville. That route has been identified as a priority for Select Bus Service expansion. Industry City is also right next to the planned Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway route and is a potential candidate for ferry service, though it was skipped over in the ferry network Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last month.

What the developers are focused on, though, is parking.

Industry City sits across the street from the city-owned South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, which already leases parking space to its neighbors, including 450 spots to Industry City. The development’s owners are looking to carve out up to five more acres for car storage in a corner of the 88-acre terminal site. According to back-of-the-envelope calculations by The Brooklyn Paper, that area — equal to the size of four football fields — could result in as many as 750 parking spaces.

Industry City President Andrew Kimball told The Brooklyn Paper that “this is an under-parked area,” but before Industry City adds more car storage (and traffic) to the neighborhood, it might be worth looking at the parking that’s already available.

A rendering of a restored Industry City from a parking lot in the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal. Image: Industry City
A rendering of a restored Industry City from a parking lot in the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal. Image: Industry City

Costco and its 475-space, 4.5-acre accessory parking lot opened in 1996 right next to Industry City. There are also 644 spaces in the median of Third Avenue beneath the Gowanus Expressway between 20th and 40th Streets, according to a 2011 report from Community Board 7 [PDF]. Of those, 324 are metered spaces, which are temporarily closed, according to DOT.

Just to the north of Industry City, the Federal Bureau of Prisons has barricaded all of 29th Street between Second and Third Avenues in order to create a private parking lot for its employees. And, of course, there’s on-street parking throughout Industry City — some of which is used as storage for big-rigs.

Working with DOT, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Costco, and Industry City’s other neighbors to come up with a plan for the neighborhood’s existing parking spots would be a better choice than just asking the city to create more parking and more traffic.

Industry City’s preferred changes to the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal will be subject to ongoing negotiations between EDC and Menchaca. In December, EDC abandoned a plan to lease the terminal to a cargo shipper and recycling facility after Menchaca said there should be more local benefits and neighborhood control over decision-making at the site.

Menchaca seemed to support Industry City’s parking request, according to The Brooklyn Paper. “Really what we need is a Sunset Park industrial parking plan,” he said. “But immediately, I think we need to look at granting that kind of support for Industry City today with the commitment to plan for what’s coming.”

Menchaca’s office has received requests from both Industry City and its neighbor, Liberty View Industrial Plaza [PDF], to lease out more parking space on the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal site.

“While I am enthusiastic about local job creation and the activation of production space at Industry City, the proposal raises complex land use issues. One of those issues relates to parking,” Menchaca said in a statement. “I am calling on City agency partners to look carefully at the parking needs for this stretch of the industrial waterfront to serve both industrial employers and retail businesses in the area. In the meantime, South Brooklyn Marine Terminal presents one possible, temporary solution, though I am aware that parking, even for a small area of SBMT, presents a slippery slope. This area must be retained for job-intensive maritime and industrial uses.”

In addition to addressing parking concerns, Menchaca said the area also requires improved pedestrian connections, bus service, ferry access, and bike lanes, including an extension of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway.

Gobbling up acres of city-owned waterfront industrial land for more car storage will have negative consequences. Even the CB 7 report, which placed a high priority on adding more parking, had a word of warning.

“While there is general agreement on the need for additional parking in the area, there is also concern that this will bring more cars into the neighborhood and increase traffic congestion,” the report says. “Improving mass transit access and intermodal connections instead of providing more parking could improve circulation and travel times without creating as much traffic.”

EDC and Industry City did not respond to requests for comment.

Post updated at 7:45 p.m. with a statement from Council Member Carlos Menchaca.

  • Ian Turner

    Let’s keep in mind this facility is about 1/2 mile from a BQ subway station.

  • It’s an N/R/D station.

  • AnoNYC

    Surface parking lots should be banned in NYC. In fact the city should set a cap on the maximum available amount of parking available.

  • BBnet3000

    I’m curious where they think their employees are living. I suspect that quite a lot of people could probably bike to this easily if decent bike infrastructure were available.

    Oh well.

  • Mike

    It’s a lot less than half a mile. It’s basically two blocks to the subway. Also, it’s right off of what will be the Brooklyn greenway for easy bike access.

  • millerstephen

    Also, the bulk of Industry City (between 32nd and 37th Streets) is one avenue block from the subway.

  • I occasionally cycle through this area on the way between my home in South Brooklyn and the Shore Greenway. It doesn’t need any more parking.

  • Alex

    An express stop at that. It’s closer to the subway than some places I’ve worked at in Manhattan.

  • BBnet3000

    Seriously. Its only one stop from Barclays Center (touted for its central location and ease of access) on TWO express trains and 5 stops on a local.

  • HamTech87

    Raising the parking comparison with the Navy Yard is exactly opposite of what should happen. The commercial (non-naval) use of the Navy Yard started amidst the city’s, and the subway’s, nadir, so accommodating motorists with parking was seen as necessary. Plus, there was plenty of excess land unwanted for other uses.

    Not anymore.

  • linstur

    There is no greater eyesore than surface parking lots, except perhaps a parking structure. We should be taxing them out of existence, while using the money to do what Zurich did, and bury all of our parking (and make underground parking virtually tax free to encourage it). Imagine if all the surface parking lots in NYC became public parks, green space, filled with trees, outdoor cafes and people.

  • BBnet3000

    Plus most of the Navy Yard is fairly distant from the subway. This location is transit accessible.

  • linstur

    Banning is a great idea. Taxing until it’s financially not worth it has the added benefit of raising revenue for the city. I always lean towards taxing things we don’t want – tobacco, carbon, soda – so we can cut taxes on the things we want more of – like employment.

  • Alfonce

    I work in the area, walking distance to Costco, I ABSOLUTELY welcome parking lots. We employees already have a parking problem.
    Where does everyone think were supposed to park our cars?, in our pockets.

    Im sick of all you anti parking lot people. There are people that like and need to have a car.

  • Ian Turner

    You’re right, apologies.

  • dporpentine

    Then pay for it. That’s all I want: car drivers to give up their massive subsidies and start accepting responsibility for the incredible negative externalities their world-destroying decisions bring.

    Meanwhile, it’d be awesome if you could park your car in your pocket. Please work on that!

  • Charles

    More parking -> more traffic -> more congestion. The last thing we need is for the city to give away valuable land for parking. This isn’t the 1980s anymore.

    If we acted like the enlightened city we claim to be, we would make this developer build bike lanes and a light rail connection to the subway to service the project.

  • Reader

    The people who need to have a car are one thing. The city should work on ways to diminish that need with better public transportation, safer sidewalks, bike lanes, etc.

    The people who like to have a car are not the city’s responsibility.

  • Joe R.

    That’s the beauty of the anti-parking people. Get rid of enough parking, all those cars that people might like to have (but don’t really need) magically disappear. Parking generates car use which in turn generates traffic. Anyone who really needs to drive (as opposed to wants to drive) will have a faster trip if we make parking more difficult for those who don’t really need to drive.

    By the way, the anti-parking people aren’t against parking for essential things like delivery vehicles. In fact, the city needs more parking space taken from private cars and reserved for essential vehicles. As dporpentine said, you want to drive and park, then pay for it. If that means you have to pay a private garage $50 to park for one hour so be it. If it means you have to pay $20 for a gallon of gas then so be it. There’s no reason valuable real estate should be reserved for parking when it can be put to more lucrative uses. There’s even less reason why curbside space should be given over to private car storage for free. There’s zero public benefit encouraging private car use in a place like NYC.

  • Greg

    this article used Costco as an example of parking for the neighborhood. But forgot to mention that there lot is only for there customers.

  • princeps_mundi

    You missed the giant parking lot next to the Microcenter at 850 3rd Ave

  • Sajh

    So why was it ok for Costco to build a parking lot but this new development isnt? Is it ok for retail to have parking but not an office complex that is investing in the area including bike paths and pesterdian improvements? I could understand being upset with turning parkland or preexisting buildings into surface parking but turning surface parking areas into better looking surface parking areas seems like a non-issue. Furthermore, most likely what will happen is after a few years and a development of stronger interest in the area, the developer will look to sell the parking areas and build more buildings. Also opposition to this would be no different than opposition to building several apartment towers on the proposed parking areas. You dont think buildings increase traffic? How come surface parking is being attacked but every residential building or office building or even hotel project in the city that doesnt offer bike storage or have a transit investment plan in place not?

  • Joe R.

    It really wasn’t OK for Costco to build a parking lot, either. Stores should try to match the character of the city they’re in, not the reverse. The Target in downtown Flushing is a great example. There’s no huge parking lot because they knew most customers would come by foot. NYC isn’t Long Island or NJ. If Costco or BJs or Home Depot build stores you don’t need huge, suburban style parking lots. If you must have parking at all, it should be a small amount, and located either underground, or a multilevel garage with a small surface footprint. Parking lots represent lost opportunity for the city in terms of what could have been built there instead. They also create urban heat islands, problems with water runoff, etc.

    And buildings only increase traffic if you provide free or low-cost car storage. If you charge market rates for car storage, nobody except the wealthy few would be able to afford a car. As for bike storage, remember you can fit 10 or more bikes in the space of one car. It’s far less problematic to build bike storage into a building. Moreover, bike use doesn’t have the negatives of car use. Same with transit. That’s why new construction should incorporate them. Cars are fine, indeed necessary, in rural areas. In cities, perhaps even in inner ring suburbs, they should be discouraged. They’re just the wrong tool for the job. A good analogy I give is you wouldn’t build a subway in rural Nebraska because it’s simply the wrong solution. And you shouldn’t encourage car use in NYC for the same reasons. Private cars don’t belong in big cities. When many drive, it’s no longer a convenient, fast way to get around. Moreover, it creates loads of problems for those who don’t drive (in NYC that’s the majority).

  • AnoNYC

    Problem is that surface parking lots do not create as much tax revenue as other uses like residential, commercial and industrial.

  • linstur

    One “green” idea being floated is to create a property tax system that taxes the potential of a city lot, not the use – so a surface parking lot would pay the property taxes of a tall building – basically penalizing the owner for not maximizing the use. Again, the goal is to increase the taxes on surface parking to discourage it and push parking underground – it’s eyesore and a community-killer and business-killer – who wants to stroll by a parking lot with their dog or kids or a friend? Public streets should be full of life, cafes, people, businesses, green space – not cars.

    Another version of this idea is to divide the square footage of a building by the number of occupants to calculate the tax – so if a single person lives in a huge apartment they would pay five times as much as a family of five or a group of five co-habitors (or a single person in an apartment 1/5 the size). This puts small pressure towards increased density (taking in a cousin, renting out a room) – which is environmental and supports public transportation and small businesses and creates more affordable housing opportunities.

  • Tyler

    Take a look at the Brooklyn Paper article comments section… this actually gives me hope for the future of humanity (in NYC). The majority of comments are, let’s say, less than enthusiastic about a massive new parking lot.

  • J_12

    That might be a nice experiment to try if you could create a city out of nothing. But if you implemented that in NYC you would basically force any small property owner with extra FAR to sell to a developer.

  • linstur

    Yes – you would have to do a Jane Jacobs carve out – historic structures/landmarks would be considered “at full potential” regardless of height. Outdoor cafes would be considered “at full potential” for the service they provide the community. But surface parking lots, crummy one story buildings, etc, would be assessed at a higher rate to encourage (I hate to say the word) development for density and beauty.

  • Alfonce

    actually stores like costco do need parking lots, since most of the stuff sold there is huge, large economy size and in bulk, how would a pedestrian get the stuff home?

    fair statement?

    2 bottles of the large size of Tide detergent is heavy to walk blocks with…

    I too like the convenience of a subway, no headache parking, I totally get that, but then there are times when I really do have to have the car.

  • Joe R.

    I know Home Depot delivers. If enough people who went to Costco and other stores didn’t drive the stores might offer a delivery service. Yes, it costs money but in the long run if you avoid car ownership you still save big time.

    Also, there’s an age old solution to how to walk blocks with a load of heavy items from Costco or BJs-a shopping cart. I recently went to the local BJs, which is three miles each way, with a shopping cart. No problem carrying ~100 pounds back 3 miles. Of course, if I had a cargo bike I could have done the same trip in 1/3 the time, but still 45 minutes each way isn’t bad. It takes 20 minutes to drive there given the congestion, plus a few minutes to park.

  • ahwr

    you wouldn’t build a subway in rural Nebraska because it’s simply the wrong solution

    Unless it was to avoid having a highway in some protected area that was declared as such to stop the highway project and you are trying to find a way around it like in Kentucky.

    http://usa.streetsblog.org/2012/06/25/indianas-big-dig-raises-bar-on-absurdly-wasteful-highway-boondoggles/

  • Joe R.

    An underground highway really wasn’t what I had in mind when I said “subway in rural Nebraska” but this nevertheless illustrates how much money we’re willing to waste on unnecessary road expansion while at the same time starving transit.

    Did this boondoggle actually get built yet? I couldn’t find any info to that effect. Hopefully it was shelved.

  • qrt145

    Some people question whether huge-box stores such as Costco actually belong in a dense city where most households don’t have cars, but let’s put that argument aside for now (I’m actually a BJ’s member).

    I agree that, given such a store, some parking is a good idea, but the question is how much parking, and who should pay for it?

    Consider the BJ’s at the Bronx Terminal Market, which is the one I know best. That mall has a gigantic parking lot, doubtless due to stupid regulations that were written with rural Nebraska in mind. I have never seen that parking lot filled at more than 25% capacity.

    A good fraction of the customers, even at BJ’s, don’t even own a car. So what do they do? In many cases, they walk or take transit to the store, and then take a taxi home (there are actually livery “bases” operating from the parking lot). Paying $10-$15 for the occasional trip from BJ’s is still cheaper than owning a car.

    Parking at that garage has a price of $3, which is too low if you consider the huge cost of building it and the potential market price for parking in this city. This means that the customers who don’t drive to the store are subsidizing those who do. This is even more obvious in the case of stores that offer free parking, which is more or less the rule outside NYC but happens even in Manhattan (for example, the Fairway on 12th Ave.)

  • Andrew

    In addition to everything you’ve said, free or discounted parking promotes car ownership and car use, by letting the motorist off the hook (in part or in full) of the cost of the parking space itself. So traffic gets heavier and support for good facilities for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders is eroded (although I’ll grant that some hard-core motorists are enlightened enough to recognize that good pedestrian, cyclist, and transit facilities serve to keep traffic congestion under control, even if they rarely make use of them personally).

  • Joe R.

    I think stores like BJs, Costco, Home Depot, even Walmart can make a good case for setting up locations in a big city. After all, why shouldn’t city residents get the benefit of buying in bulk, plus the convenience of needing to shop a lot less when you do so. However, these stores should exactly what you say-have much smaller parking lots, charge market rate for parking, perhaps have livery bases near the store. At the same time there should be free bike parking, perhaps cargo bike rental, connections to transit where possible. The vast majority of people using these stores in cities won’t be driving to them. It makes no sense then to directly or indirectly subsidize those who do.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Shoup to O’Toole: The Market for Parking Is Anything But Free

|
We’re reprinting this reply [PDF] from UCLA professor Donald Shoup, author of the High Cost of Free Parking, to Randal O’Toole, the libertarian Cato Institute senior fellow who refuses to acknowledge the role of massive government intervention in the market for parking, and the effect this has had on America’s car dependence. It’s an excellent […]