Council passes new design standards for parking lots

New standards in tune with Mayor’s PlaNYC 2030. The City Council unanimously approved City Planning’s proposal to establish rules regulating the design of open public parking lots, as well as those for commercial and community use facilities. The new standards will apply to new lots and certain existing lots if enlarged.

Prior to the Council’s vote, parking lots were not subject to any Citywide zoning requirements that ensured vehicle maneuverability or environmentally friendly design. According to City Planning, the absence of maneuverability standards endangered drivers and pedestrians; while the absence of green standards encouraged broad expanses of bare pavement that exacerbated storm water runoff problems and increased the urban heat island effect by up to 10 degrees.

To improve vehicle and pedestrian circulation, all applicable parking areas must comply with minimum widths for parking spaces, parking aisles, and curb cuts. Developers must demonstrate compliance with these new standards by submitting plans to the Department of Buildings.

To improve air quality and storm water management, all applicable parking lots with at least 18 spaces or 6,000 sq.ft. in area must be surrounded by a 7-foot wide landscaped strip with ground cover, shrubs and ornamental trees to screen the parking area from the street. Such lots must also have one street tree for every 25 feet of street frontage. Parking lots containing at least 36 spaces or 12,000 sq.ft. in area must have one canopy tree, planted on a landscaped island at least 150 sq.ft. in area, for every eight parking spaces. For parking lots at least 150,000 sq.ft. in area, landscaped islands are required between every other row of parking spaces.

All landscaped areas must be designed to absorb storm water runoff and must contain elements to remove silt and pollution from the runoff. These new requirements will maximize storm water retention on site, easing the burden on the City sewer system.

The new standards do not apply to existing applicable parking lots unless the developer increases by at least 20 percent either the building’s floor area or the number of parking spaces. The standards also do not apply to structured parking facilities, rooftop parking, or auto-related uses, such as gas stations and car washes. Commercial and community facility developments that contain residences are also exempt, unless at least 70 percent of the floor area on the zoning lot is used for commercial or community facility uses.

At the public hearing before the Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning & Franchises, Council Members Tony Avella, Chair of the subcommittee, and Michael McMahon praised the new standards but stated their desire to make them apply to all existing lots. Council Member Simcha Felder asked why the standards do not apply to rooftop parking areas, to which City Planning replied that including such areas would be too costly for developers.

Caroline Harris, attorney for Sustainable South Bronx and the coalition Storm Water Infrastructure Matters, or S.W.I.M., and Dr. Paul Mankiewicz, Executive Director of The Gaia Institute, testified to the proposal’s positive environmental effects.

The subcommittee approved the proposal without modifications on November 26, 2007, and the full Council followed suit two days later.

ULURP Process
Lead Agency: CPC,Neg.Dec.
Comm. Bd.: MN 1, App’d, 37-0-0; MN 2,
App’d, 35-0-0
Boro.Pres.: BX,App’d; BK,App’d; SI,App’d
CPC: App’d, 12-0-0
Council: App’d, 49-0-0

Council: Parking Lot Design Regulation Text, Citywide (Nov. 28, 2007); CPC: (N 070509 ZRY – text amend.) (Oct. 31, 2007). CITYADMIN

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