Park Here: Changes to Parking Regulations in the Manhattan Core

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In May, the City Council adopted a zoning text amendment that revised the parking regulations in the “Manhattan Core,” the area south of 96th Street on the east side and south of 110th Street on the west side.  Since 1982, this area of Manhattan has been subject to parking regulations that differ from those in effect in the rest of the City, in part due to an effort to reduce pollution after the Clean Air Act and an acknowledgement that the number of cars in the congested areas of central Manhattan should be limited.  Parking is not required for any new development in the Manhattan Core and is only permitted in limited amounts.

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Downtown Brooklyn Parking Text Amendment – Is it enough?

 

This summer, City Planning is in the midst of a zoning change that will reduce the parking requirements for new buildings in Downtown Brooklyn.   The text amendment is part of the city’s larger reevaluation of the Zoning Resolution’s parking requirements, as I’ve discussed previously (DCP released a study last year examining Manhattan’s parking situation, but hasn’t yet introduced any text amendment for that area).  To recap the requirements – with the exception of Manhattan below 110th Street, all new buildings in NYC must provide some amount of on-site parking spaces.  This requirement can be as high as one space for 100% of all new residential units in lower density areas, and can be onerous for affordable housing and small buildings – or anywhere there isn’t a market for on-site parking spaces.  The zoning provides few exceptions to the parking requirements – the requirements for affordable housing are less than those for market rate residential buildings, and developments that are small enough can waive their requirement, but in most other cases, the only way that the parking requirement can be reduced is through a variance. 

Downtown Brooklyn’s text amendment, which reduces residential requirements from 40 to 20 percent, is currently winding its way through the public review process.  The reduction has been welcomed by many in the development community – the area continues to see a number of high-density residential development projects, and since it has some of the best transit access in the country, there simply isn’t a market for the required number of on-site parking spaces.  Continue reading

City Planning Looks to the Future with East Midtown Zoning Proposal

Last week, at a meeting of Community Board 5, City Planning finally released details of a much anticipated zoning proposal for East Midtown. The proposal, which could be the last major rezoning initiative of the Bloomberg administration, concentrates on the blocks around and north of Grand Central (the boundaries stretch roughly from Fifth Avenue to Second Avenue and from 39th to 57th Streets), which are already home to a number of high density office buildings.

The rezoning looks to incentivize property owners and developers to upgrade the area’s office building stock by permitting new development at a significantly higher density than is currently allowed.  The new regulations may also incorporate a “district improvement fund” type program, similar to what already exists in Hudson Yards.  As part of this program, developers could contribute to a fund, intended to finance the construction of a pedestrian plaza on what is now Vanderbilt Avenue, in exchange for even more floor area.   Under today’s zoning, a limited number of property owners are permitted to purchase excess development rights from Grand Central, and that program might also be expanded under the new proposal. Continue reading

Step Aside Philadelphia, Jersey City: The waterfront is now NYC’s Sixth Borough

Yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn formally announced the release of the New York City Comprehensive Waterfront Plan, Vision 2020.  The new plan is very ambitious in its scope, envisioning the waterfront as an integral part of the city, or the “Sixth Borough,” as Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden describes it.

As we discussed in October, New York City’s Vision 2020 plan is indeed comprehensive.  The 192-page plan offers a wide range of strategies the City could employ to take better advantage of its waterfront, for both recreational and economic purposes.  It proposes new waterfront open spaces, as well as improvements to the waterways themselves and related infrastructure, such as dredging to accommodate more container ships and upgrades to the city’s sewer system.  In addition, the plan aims to address environmental concerns by making recommendations aimed at protecting wetlands, improving water quality, and addressing sea level rise and other climate change concerns.

Covering the entire report in one post would be ambitious, so ZONE instead plans to do a series of updates on the topic.  In the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at several of these issues in depth and exploring their potential effect on local land use and other issues relevant to you, our readers.

Until then, you can read more about the plan, or download a copy of the entire 192 page document, here.

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Can the City’s Decision Makers Keep New York Wal-Mart-Free?

There’s been quite a bit of talk in New York recently about Wal-Mart – the big box retailer is resurrecting its bid to open its first New York City store.  Wal-Mart’s earlier attempts to open a Brooklyn or Queens location failed when the store came up against the city’s strong unions – who oppose Wal-Mart’s non-union approach – and a general concern about the effects of the retailer on wages and small businesses.  This time around, the City Council’s Committees on Community Development, Small Business and Economic Development plan to hold a joint oversight hearing on Wal-Mart (scheduled for this Wednesday), and Christine Quinn, the Council’s Speaker, has been quoted as saying, “Wal-Mart is something I am not supportive of.” But can the City Council, unions, or small businesses actually block the store from opening anywhere within the five boroughs?

Unlike some other cities in the US, NYC doesn’t have regulations that prohibit chains.  So why hasn’t Wal-Mart just opened here already, like Home Depot, Costco, Target and several other large chain retailers have before it?  Although these other stores have also faced barriers to entry, particular attention is paid to Wal-Mart, as they seem to rally opposition like no other store.  What’s the source of the legal barriers and the regulatory constraints – and can Wal-Mart be stopped?  The answers to these questions, like so many others, lie partially within the Zoning Resolution. Continue reading

Landmarks Considers a New Historic District for Brooklyn

This week, the Landmarks Preservation Commission proposed a new historic district in Downtown Brooklyn.  Referred to by Landmarks as the “Skyscraper District,” it differs from other recently landmarked brownstone Brooklyn areas in that most of the buildings within its boundaries are multi-story office buildings, if not skyscrapers.  Also included within the district’s proposed boundaries in Brooklyn’s Borough Hall. Continue reading

The Comprehensive Waterfront Plan – Coming Soon to a Shoreline Near You

The Department of City Planning is currently in the process of updating the City’s Comprehensive Waterfront Plan, which was originally published in 1992.  Local law requires that this update, which City Planning has entitled “Vision 2020,” be completed by the end of the year.  The Waterfront Plan is not to be confused with City Planning’s update to its waterfront zoning, which occurred last year and focused primarily on the design of the open spaces required when a private waterfront property is developed. Continue reading

Car Sharing for All!

Yesterday, the New York City Council approved City Planning’s timely car share zoning text amendment.  As we discussed in our previous post, the new zoning text permits car sharing vehicles – like Zipcar – in both accessory and public parking garages throughout the city.  Although such services existed in the past, they are now officially sanctioned and regulated by the Zoning Resolution.

Car Sharing Zoning Text Amendment – Approved!

SoHo’s Zoning Secret

The SoHo Grand Hotel, located on West Broadway, has a relatively unique design.  The hotel’s main lobby is on the building’s second level.  The set-up lends the hotel an air of exclusivity.  However, this design wasn’t just an architectural choice or a way to give visitors to the hotel more privacy when checking in – it was mandated by zoning. Continue reading