Parking provision may clog streets, hurt environment
A little-known provision in the citys zoning code that forces new residential developments to provide off-street parking is threatening to clog streets and lead a trail of smog behind in the coming years, a new report found.
The study, issued by a coalition of environmental and urban planning groups, showed that regulations requiring new buildings to contain underground parking garages or adjacent parking lots could derail the Bloomberg administrations signature environmental goals as the he pushes for more new housing.
This increase in the parking supply will unleash a torrent of unnecessary car ownership, unnecessary driving, and unnecessary traffic and associated pollution, said Paul Steely White of Transportation Alternatives, a cycling and pedestrian advocacy group. All of this traffic will largely erase all of the climate and transportation benefits of PlaNYC.PlanNYC 2030 is Bloombergs much-heralded plan to make New York City a more environmentally sustainable city by that year.
Parking requirements differ by neighborhood. In most of Queens and South Brooklyn, new buildings must provide one parking space per unit. New buildings in Manhattan below 96th Street are exempt under the Clean Air Act.
Anti-car advocates say the New Yorkers are far more likely to own a car if they buy an apartment that comes with a parking space, even if their new home is near public transportation. Currently, fewer than half of New York City households own a vehicle.
The opportunity cost of that space is really very high, said Rachel Weinberger, a professor of urban planning at the University of Pennsylvania who co-authored the report. It could be put to additional use as additional residences.
Developers who wish to forego mandated amounts of off-street parking can apply for a hardship exemption from the Department of City Planning. But with the Bloomberg administration attempting to add 265,000 new housing units, the streets will become clogged with new drivers, according to Weinberger.
The rezoning of Jamaica and Willets Point, both in Queens, would add nearly 15,000 parking spaces between the two of them, the study found.
It is unclear when the parking regulations were first added to the citys zoning code. The last major revision to the code was in 1961, when city planners expected New York and other urban centers to be navigated chiefly by automobile.
Jennifer Torres, a spokesperson for the citys Department of City Planning, said that the agency was reviewing the report.
We are reviewing off street parking regulations, but in most areas south of 96th Street in Manhattan do not require any parking, and in other neighborhoods, lack of parking is a frequent community complaint., she added in a statement.
-- David Freedlander