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Landscape architects' organization says Atlantic Yards parking lot ignores sustainability; calls for increased greenery, better use of stormwater, programming when space is unused

Forest City Ratner's plan to not meet Department of City Planning standards for the surface parking lot associated with the Barclays Center--thanks, according to the developer, to a state override of zoning*--has generated extensive criticism, not only from Atlantic Yards Watch, but more recently from a leading professional organization, which warns of "higher-than-average temperatures in the neighborhood as a result of the heat island effect."

Proposed greening of lot as depicted by Atlantic Yards Watch.
In a letter sent 6/12/12 to Kenneth Adams, President/CEO, Empire State Development Corporation, the state agency overseeing the project, the New York Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (NYASLA) commented that the parking should be more sustainable, adding "vegetation, shade, a minimized carbon footprint, stormwater management and pervious parking surface materials."

"Such an approach is more respectful of the quality of life of adjacent residents and businesses," wrote NYASLA President Denisha Williams and Past-President, Policy Committee Tricia Martin.

*The letter notes that the exemption from city guidelines is because of the lot's status as a temporary lot--but it could last for more than a decade.

Forest City Ratner has said that there's not enough space in the lot to add the vegetation requested; the developer halved the size of the lot because an 1,100 space lot would have required stackers, which cause delay. (A meeting next week will address the parking lot, along with security and sanitation.)

What's planned

The letter notes the following features:
  • 541 parking spaces will be integrated into Lot B1129
  • 24 spaces are for NYPD parking
  • There will be no planted islands or trees within the parking lot
  • There will be a 4-foot perimeter planter along the sidewalk faces of the parking lot
  • There will be a perimeter fence along the parking lot
  • The parking lot will be used for 200-225 arena events per year
  • The parking lot is temporary but could remain as a parking lot for upwards of 25 years.
  • Lot B1129 is exempt from meeting City Planning Parking Lot guidelines due to its status as temporary lot
  • The additional stormwater that is created is being mitigated with an underground detention tank
  • There are no plans for green infrastructure within or along the parking lot
What NYASLA recommends

NYASLA outlines three areas of concern and makes recommendations, based on the national organization's policies:

Noting that "vegetation in the built environment is a major influence on the quality of human life and in creating a healthy environment," the organization recommends that DCP regulations be integrated into the revised design, extending the planter along the perimeter of the parking from four feet to seven feet--as minimum action--to include trees and more vegetation diversity, as well as add trees within the site.

While NYASLA did acknowledge that "the integration of a detention tank system will mitigate some of the harmful effects of additional stormwater to our waterways and aging water infrastructure," operators could still use excess water to irrigate plants within the parking lot and along the perimeter.

Noting that the lot could be use for four hours at each of 225 events, that's only ten percent of the time. So NYASLA recommends that Forest City work with neighborhood organizations and local officials to ensure programming of events, such as "farmer’s markets, street fairs, performances, a cycle track, etc."

What happened to PlaNYC?

The letter-writers point out that the proposed design "completely disregards any of the recommendations, standards, and guidelines outlined" in Mayor Mike Bloomberg's 2007 PlaNYC, the City Planning Commission's 2007 adoption of Design Standards for Commercial and Community Facility Parking Lots, and three follow-up sustainability plans created in 2010.

They note:
As one of the major projects underway in our city at this time, overseen by a public agency, this should be an example of how to do this right, rather than an exception to the agreed-upon initiatives. Our city has made great strides towards making decisions that are better for our communities and our environment. It is unacceptable that a project as large as this parking lot ignores the smart, strategic recommendations of these plans. Through the creation of the Barclays Center Neighborhood Protection Plan (NPP) along with continued consultation with local residents, workers, and organizations such as NYASLA, we believe a new design can be created that meets the FCRC needs for arena parking and contributes to a greener and better New York City.
NYASLA Atlantic Yards Parking Lot Letter 06-12-2012

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