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.
Rather than leaving a minimum in place, DCP could have decided to eliminate the parking requirement, leaving the provision of new, on-site parking spaces in Downtown Brooklyn up to the market. As per DCP’s presentation, car ownership rates in Downtown Brooklyn are pretty low – lower than both the surrounding area and the city as a whole. As I pointed out in 2010, reducing parking – and therefore emissions from cars – is one of the city’s goals. So should the city have gone farther? Is the minimum necessary to ensure that the area’s steadily increasing residential population has someplace to put their cars? Or should the requirement have been eliminated entirely?