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.

The new parking text takes these regulations a step further in an attempt to more accurately reflect the current parking conditions and needs in the Manhattan Core area.  Highlights from the new text include:

  • A blurred line between “accessory” and “public” parking facilities.  In the NYC Zoning Resolution, accessory parking facilities are only for the residents, employees or customers of the building to which the spaces are attached.  For example, a garage beneath a residential apartment building, that can only be accessed and utilized by the residents of that building, is considered an “accessory” parking facility.  A garage that is open to the public is, somewhat obviously, considered a “public” parking facility.  Different zoning regulations apply to these accessory and public facilities – for example, public facilities are not permitted in some areas where accessory facilities are required.  However, the newly adopted text erases some of these distinctions within the Manhattan Core.  In an acknowledgement that many spaces in accessory parking garages are currently being rented to members of the general public (and not being exclusively utilized by the occupants of those buildings), the new text permits and formalizes this arrangement.  An older accessory off-street facility may continue to make its spaces public, provided that it possesses a valid license from the Department of Consumer Affairs, although it may not increase its number of spaces.  New accessory off-street facilities may make their spaces public, although they must make them available to the occupant of a residence to which its accessory within 30 days of a written request.
  • Car-sharing vehicles are permitted to occupy a greater number of spaces within both accessory and public facilities.
  • Automated parking facilities are encouraged through the provision of a floor area exemption.  Currently, accessory parking, up to a height of 23 feet, does not count toward the zoning floor area of a building.  The new text permits a floor area exception for automated facilities up to a height of 40 feet.
  • All accessory parking spaces must be located within a completely enclosed building – so accessory parking may not be provided in an open lot, even if it’s in the rear of a building.  Additionally, accessory parking spaces must be located behind other uses and screened from the street.
  • Finally, the parking special permit requirements have been adjusted.  The new text incorporates a number of different discretionary special permits for those who wish to increase the number of parking spaces on their property above the permitted amount.  There are targeted special permit findings for residential, health care, arts and “economic development” uses.

As discussed previously, the Department of City Planning has said they are evaluating the parking requirements in other areas.  They have now revised the zoning in Downtown Brooklyn and the Manhattan Core, and hopefully will soon move onto other areas, where the Zoning Resolution’s outdated parking requirements can stand to be updated.