NYC Housing Policy Too Important to Be Written By Free Parking Addicts

Earlier this week the Department of City Planning presented its housing affordability plan to the Queens Borough Board, where representatives of community boards throughout the borough kvetched about — you guessed it — parking.

One of the best things about DCP’s Housing New York plan is that it would bring an end to parking requirements for subsidized housing near subways. This would cut down on construction costs and free up resources to house people instead of cars. It’s not full-on reform of parking requirements, since market-rate residences would still be forced to come with a certain number of parking spots. This allows DCP to point out that very, very few people who live in subsidized housing near transit own cars anyway, which could conceivably help win over people who worry about competition for free on-street parking spots.

Naturally, community board types are still having none of it. They’re fixated on one thing, and it’s not housing affordability. What they want are guarantees that parking for free on the street will not become any more inconvenient, according to the scene painted by the Queens Chronicle:

“I’m a senior citizen. If you take away my car, you take away my life,” Community Board 6 Chairman Joseph Hennessy told DCP representatives Eric Kober and Laura Smith. “You’re thinking Manhattan. This is Queens.”

“This is Queens. We can’t get around here on public transportation, that’s why all us old guys have cars to go to the doctor or go somewhere,” [community board 5 chair Vincent] Arcuri said. “So when you’re saying that seniors don’t need cars or don’t have them… in Queens, it’s our lifeline.”

Okay, so these people aren’t convinced by the housing affordability argument, and they don’t believe or don’t care about the data that says a ton of parking in subsidized housing goes unused. How about an angle they can relate to: Parking requirements make life more miserable, not less, for existing car owners.

Guaranteed parking at home is an inducement to own a car and to drive. And it doesn’t even stop new car owners from competing with existing car owners for free curbside spaces. According to a recent DCP study, 43 percent of residents with access to off-street parking at home in New York’s “inner ring” — which includes the Middle Village district where Arcuri lives — park on the street anyway.

If their parking at home wasn’t guaranteed, some of these on-street parkers wouldn’t own cars in the first place — meaning less competition for on-street spaces. Among the new residents who would choose to own cars, fewer would drive to work in Manhattan — meaning less competition for traffic lanes.

Of course, if convenient, free on-street parking is the only thing you care about, the counterproposal isn’t to build housing without parking, it’s to build no housing at all. That’s clearly not an option in housing-starved NYC. We can’t let the logic of free parking addicts dictate the city’s housing policy.

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