Queens Community Board Chairs Care About Parking More Than Housing

Give it up for Queens community board chairs. Thanks to a vote last night, we now have a crystal clear expression of their priorities. Nothing is more important than parking.

In a city without enough housing to go around, where rising rents are squeezing people in more neighborhoods every year, the community board chairs have taken a bold stand: Parking must come first, before all of this affordable housing nonsense.

City Hall’s big affordable housing plan, which broadly speaking lets developers build more housing while compelling them to set aside some units for people earning below a certain threshold, went up for a vote from the Queens Borough Board on Monday. (The borough board is composed of the chairs of all the borough’s community boards, the borough president, and its council members, though not everyone was present.) The plan went down in a 12-2 vote, which thankfully is only advisory in nature.

One piece of the plan is the reduction of mandatory parking minimums for subsidized housing near transit. This is the provision that the community board chairs could not stomach, reports Politico’s Sally Goldenberg:

Vincent Arcuri, chairman of Community Board 5, which includes Ridgewood, Glendale and Middle Village, said he simply needs a car.

“You can’t get from here to there in Queens with public transportation,” Arcuri said from his seat at a conference table in Borough Hall before casting his no vote. “I can get into Manhattan very quickly. I sure as hell can’t get into South Jamaica or Douglaston.”

Arcuri opened his remarks by calling the proposal, known formally as Zoning for Quality and Affordability, “sort of an insult to Queens.”

For the record, 36 percent of Queens households do get everywhere they need to go without having a personal parking space, because they don’t own cars.

Yesterday’s vote comes as no surprise, since the borough board started complaining about the absence of some parking requirements last month. But let’s take a moment to appreciate what happened.

The community board chairs were asked to weigh in on a city proposal to make a basic human need — shelter — accessible to more New Yorkers. The proposal allows some buildings to be built without parking, which research indicates will yield immense public benefits in the form of more affordable housing and less traffic. But the community board chairs, despite all evidence presented to them, took the proposal as a personal attack on their car ownership, voting against the public interest.

City Hall is under no obligation to alter its housing plan based on this vote, and the real political test will come later, in the City Council, where the votes do set policy.

But a big borough board vote like this is a good opportunity to reflect on how much City Hall should defer to community boards in general. New York will clearly be better off if the de Blasio administration presses ahead without watering down its housing plan to please community board chairs incapable of thinking beyond their own parking spot. And what goes for housing policy should go for street safety and surface transit too.

  • Joe R.

    My point, which you seem to confirm, is that you need to lift off the accelerator in lieu of riding the brake to keep the vehicle from exceeding 25 mph. I did mention either strategy will work but both are tedious because they require continually monitoring the speed. Most vehicle cruise controls can’t be set for the low speeds typical of urban driving, either.

    I don’t have a driver’s license but my brother can confirm virtually every car made will greatly exceed 25 mph if you lightly keep your foot on the accelerator.

  • reasonableexplanation

    I may not have been as clear as I hoped:
    If you are driving at 25mph and you stop giving the car gas you will slow down to below 25mph, down to about 10mph. To continue driving 25 you need to keep your foot on the gas, Brakes don’t come into it at all.

    As for any car exceeding 25mph… I don’t quite understand: it’s a throttle: you can give it enough gas to go 15, 20,25, 30, or 50, or whatever speed you want. Unintended acceleration past your desired speed may just be a issue of lack of experience/familiarity.

    Is it mentally annoying to drive 25 on a road with a design speed in the high 30’s? Sure, but it’s not difficult in any sense of the word. If a car is behaving differently, something’s out of whack.

  • Joe R.

    My point is at minimum throttle setting many (most?) modern cars will eventually creep past 25 mph. There’s probably no incentive to try and design cars any differently because in most places in the US driving speeds are well above 25 mph. Also, as I mentioned the difference in the amount of power needed to maintain 20 or 25 mph versus even 50 mph is a really tiny percentage of a typical engine’s output.

    Maybe a better analogy here might trying to maintain 5 or 6 mph on a bicycle. If you pedal continuously, even as light as possible, you’ll eventually creep up to well past that speed. The only way not to is to pedal in short bursts, or ride your brake. The reasons are much the same—namely it’s very difficult to modulate your power output to the small percentage of maximum needed to keep to a steady very low speed. 25 mph in modern cars is probably equivalent to 5 mph on a bike in terms of the percentage of your power you need.

    Next time you drive try just resting your foot very light on the accelerator, moving it just enough so you’re no longer at idle, and then seeing what speed you eventually reach. My guess is that speed will be well past 25 mph.

  • reasonableexplanation

    Ah I got you now. I think you’re wrong though.

    No car that I have had the pleasure to drive crept past low speeds unless you actively asked it to.

    Modern engines are designed to be as fuel efficient as possible, if you’re maintaining speed, it will use the absolute minimum amount of fuel that it can. They’re pretty good at it too!

    Next time you drive try just resting your foot very lightly on the accelerator…

    I already encounter the situation you describe almost every day: driving in a large strip mall parking lot. I always end up somewhere in the mid-teen-mph.

    My understanding is the throttles on electric vehicles work differently…

    I’ve found the opposite is true; electric cars have all their torque on the low end (which is really fun, by the way), so it’s much much easier to go faster with just a little push on the gas. However, again, these differences are small and easily corrected for after a few minutes of getting used to it.

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