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

What Changes Behavior?

If we can agree that the goal is to get people to use less energy, less water, less oil; to get people to invest in greener buildings, greener technologies, greener transportation; then the question is – how do we do it?  How do we get to a state where people and companies are making more environmentally conscious choices? Ultimately, we must answer the question – What changes behavior?

Last month, I spent two weeks in Israel.  With its geographic location coupled with the space it inhabits politically, Israel has severe environmental and resource challenges – much more so than the United States.  With water scarce and the cost expensive, Israel has had to address these (and many other environmental issues) for decades.

When it comes to water, Israel gives a quota for “normal usage” to its residents.  Residents are charged a standard rate for the first 30 cubic meters (for a family of 4 every 2 months).  Above that limit, residents are charged a much higher rate, in addition to an over-usage penalty.

When it comes to gas, your eyes may be rolling lately at the price of gas in the US, but Israelis can pay as much as three times the price we do.  As a result, their cars are much smaller (SUV’s are a rarity) and public transit is robust and well-used.

As for energy usage, Israel has embraced solar technologies for more than 30 years.  Just take a look at the rooftops in Tel Aviv.  Nearly every one has a solar panel connected to the building’s water heater.

These are just a few examples of how Israel is addressing some of its sustainability challenges.  Now some might say that Israel, because of its geography and lack of resources, was forced to encourage its citizens to act more sustainably.  And that’s exactly the point.  Sometimes we need a push in the right direction in order to achieve meaningful results. Continue reading