Saturday, April 23, 2011

PlaNYC update: an Atlantic Yards mention (for water mains!) and potential reconsideration of parking requirements

On April 21, Mayor Mike Bloomberg released an an update (massive PDF) on PlaNYC 2030, the sustainability initiative launched in 2007.

Notable is an oblique mention of Atlantic Yards, as well as a nod to a major omission in the original plan: consideration of reducing parking requirements in residential developments, especially those near transit.

Previously I called the policy PlaNYC 1950, and the City Planning Commission is reportedly already studying the reduction of parking minimums.

An Atlantic Yards mention

Notably, Atlantic Yards is not described as transit-oriented development, or as the right way to develop publicly-owned property. it does get a nod under the heading "Upgrade water main infrastructure":
Once water leaves our in-city-tunnels, it travels through 6,700 miles of water mains to reach our homes. These aging pipes require continual maintenance and occasional upgrades. We will build out and replace critical water supply infrastructure to support the growth of the Coney Island community and make thousands of housing units and offices possible at Atlantic Yards. We will replace distribution mains in Jamaica Estates in Queens and Pelham Parkway in the Bronx. We will also complete the trunk main network in the Rockaways in Queens. Our commitment to upgrading and maintaining our system will save ratepayers money by preventing costly water main breaks and help support economic development in every borough.
For now, that water main upgrade will mainly benefit the Barclays Center.

The parking issue

Streetsblog observes:
In the update itself, the biggest transportation-related addition is the inclusion of parking policy, which was all but left out of the original plan. Unlike congestion pricing, major parking policy reforms can be implemented by the city without needing a vote in Albany. While the update hints at the potential reforms, the new PlaNYC still contain few firm or ambitious commitments to use parking policy to tame traffic.

...It is a breakthrough, albeit a limited one, that PlaNYC now states that “requiring too much parking to be built in a dense city like New York can encourage driving, contribute to congestion, and unnecessarily raise the cost of new development.” Up until now, the Department of City Planning’s position has been that parking requirements do not significantly affect car-ownership rates, much less congestion.

Parking requirements were also mentioned in the specific context of affordable housing, where forcing parking into new buildings increases housing prices and decreases supply. PlaNYC now commits to determining whether parking minimums add unnecessary costs to affordable housing development (they do), though it appears the study will be limited only to more densely populated neighborhoods with lower car-ownership rates.

From the update: housing

Where to grow? The update states:
Over the next few years, we will advance studies that identify potential opportunities for development across the city, including in Staten Island’s North Shore, where we are working with the community and studying transportation and other supporting improvements. In cooperation with the MTA, we will study the areas around Metro North stations in the Bronx to identify opportunities for both new development and transportation access improvements. We will also work with the MTA to study additional properties they own or lease that could be used to create housing or other enhancements for surrounding communities.
We will evaluate potential scenarios for the improvement of the Sheridan Corridor and Hunts Point area in the Bronx, as part of a study of possible changes to the highway network described in the Transportation chapter of our Plan. The outcome of this study will be based on a vision for the overall land use needs in the corridor.
We will also work with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), their tenants and surrounding communities, to determine if there are additional opportunities for development on the grounds of NYCHA properties.
We will continue to implement the Hudson Yards Plan, including taking ownership of the last portion of the High Line in Manhattan and completing the 7 train line, to continue to catalyze development in this district.
Also on tap are potential regulatory changes that would enable the addition of a legal apartment to one- and two- family homes and "options that could make smaller housing models possible"--presumably such things as single room occupancy apartments, albeit updated.

Affordable housing

The update states:
The City must proactively finance and facilitate the creation of new units, particularly affordable units, to ensure that we can meet our housing needs. That is why we are creating entirely new neighborhoods, such as Hunter’s Point South and Willets Point in Queens. We are also leveraging existing programs to finance and create new affordable housing developments throughout the city.
Finally, we are identifying existing government buildings and properties to adapt to housing. All together we will develop approximately 20,000 new affordable units by 2014 under the New Housing Marketplace Plan.
Develop new neighborhoods on underutilized sites
In a city as densely developed as New York, few large tracts of land present opportunities to build entire new residential neighborhoods. Where such opportunities exist, we will capitalize on them to create vibrant new neighborhoods with housing that meets the needs of households with a range of incomes.
We are investing more than $65 million in infrastructure—including roads, sewers and utilities—in Hunter’s Point South to create an entirely new neighborhood on the Queens waterfront.
...On Willets Point in Queens, we are also preparing for the construction of an entirely new neighborhood... We will complete similar developments in Arverne, Queens, and Gateway in East New York, Brooklyn, together creating 2,600 new units.
Did you notice what project is missing? It's not a city project, true, but Atlantic Yards is very tough to prognosticate these days.

Use of city land

The plans include construction on city land in the Melrose Commons Urban Renewal Area in the South Bronx, as well as redevelopment of "lightly used portions of New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) sites, including surface parking facilities."

Also, according to the plan, "Significant opportunities exist for housing to co-exist with current uses—from libraries to schools to parking lots."

The parking issue

Here's the verbiage about parking policy:
We will also explore whether current parking minimums for affordable housing are appropriate. In more densely populated areas where car ownership rates are low, particularly among low-income individuals, we will determine whether parking minimums may be unnecessarily adding to the cost of affordable housing. By lowering construction costs, we will be able to stretch our dollars further, creating more units in the developments we finance.
...Setting parking requirements involves balancing the demand for parking with the effects of car ownership and use. While traditional zoning requirements are intended to ensure parking supply meets household demand for car ownership, requiring too much parking to be built in a dense city like New York can encourage driving, contribute to congestion, and unnecessarily raise the cost of new development. As density and transit availability varies across the city, the parking balance must be struck for each neighborhood; there is no one-size-fits-all rule.
...We will complete a study of current parking trends in the Manhattan Core and explore modifications to parking regulations. We will also study areas outside the Manhattan Core to identify how we can revise parking regulations to better balance the needs of residents, businesses, workers, and visitors. When completed, these studies will guide future parking and curbside management policies for the City. As described in the Housing and Neighborhoods Chapter, we will also explore whether current parking minimums applicable to affordable housing are unnecessarily adding to the construction cost of some categories of housing, and explore amend- ing those requirements as appropriate.
Not far enough?

One expert quoted by Streetsblog wasn't satisfied. According to Paul Steely White of Transportation Alternatives:
"There are parking garages sitting half empty that the city forced developers to build. Each of those parking structures represent millions of dollars that developers could have been required to upgrade local transit stations, or improve the streetscape. It’s not enough to study off-street parking policy. The city must overhaul its broken off-street parking policy before a tidal wave of new car ownership eclipses the plan’s other gains."

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