Opponents disputed developer’s claim that there was insufficient parking within the vicinity of the site. On January 21, 2009, the City Planning Commission heard testimony regarding 405 West 53rd Street Development Group LLC’s special permit application for a 37-space accessory parking garage within a seven-story mixed-use development in the Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen section of Manhattan. The garage would occupy portions of the cellar and ground floor of the development, which consists of approximately 83 owner-occupied units and commercial space. The site, formerly a 225-space surface public parking lot, is located at 405-427 West 53rd Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues.
Ethan Goodman of Wachtel & Masyr LLP spoke on behalf of the applicant. He explained that the unattended, self-park accessory spaces would be for the exclusive use of the residents, and would not be rented on a per-hour or other transient basis. Since accessory parking was not allowed as-of-right under current zoning, the developer needed a special permit from the Commission based partly on insufficient parking “within the vicinity” of the building. When Borough President Scott Stringer and Community Board 4 reviewed the application, they recommended denial because they believed this finding was not met.
Goodman testified that about one-third of the building’s units comprised of three, four, and five bedroom apartments, and that, based on neighborhood census data for a building with this many bedrooms, residents were projected to own 52 automobiles. Goodman further explained that, after studying the parking lots and garages within a three-block radius, only 45 spaces could be provided out of existing parking.
Commissioner Betty Y. Chen pointed out that, after studying the availability of spaces within a quarter-mile radius of the site, there were approximately 1,534 vacant spaces during the day and 2,578 vacant spaces overnight. Goodman responded that it was inappropriate to use the quarter-mile radius test since most spots identified within the quarter-mile radius were “theater district spots” along and near Eighth Avenue. Goodman stated that a three-block radius was a more appropriate measurement, especially for the large families that would live in the building, since a quarter-mile distance equated to about a ten minute walk.
Anna Levin of CB4’s land use committee disagreed with Goodman, and stated that there was sufficient parking available even if the three-block radius was used. Levin testified that the developer had “overlooked” an 81-space parking facility located on the same block that had already been reviewed by CB4 and that “will be approved” by BSA by the time construction is complete.
Although Levin believed that the developer had not met the findings required for the special permit, she added that CB4 would be willing to accept 17 spaces, or about 20 percent of the total units. When asked by the Commission to explain the logic in denying the extra spaces, Levin responded that CB4’s recommendation of denial was based on the argument that the owner failed to meet the required findings, and that if the Commission granted a special permit here without an adequate logical justification, it would encourage the submission of other, more problematic applications.
Anthony Borelli, Land Use Director for Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, also testified that there was a sufficient amount of parking in the area. Borelli noted that the “standard” quarter-mile radius test, which included Eighth Avenue, revealed 1,300-2,000 available spots to address the demand generated by the project. Though Borelli admitted that Stringer did not think the garage would create significant traffic problems, he added that Stringer believed strict adherence to the Zoning Resolution was necessary and recommended denial of the application.
The Commission has until March 13, 2009 to vote.
CPC: Hearing on 405-427 West 53rd Street Garage (C 070305 ZSM – spec. perm.) (Jan. 21, 2009).