Council reversed Commission on curb cut denial

The City Planning Commission denied developer’s special permit request to expand an existing parking facility into a 195-space public garage. The City Council’s Land Use Committee modified and approved SDS 15 William Street LLC’s proposal to amend the Special Lower Manhattan District’s curb cut prohibitions and widen two curb cuts on the north side of Beaver Street between Broad and William Streets in Manhattan’s Financial District. Both curb cuts are south of SDS’s recently completed 44-story residential building at 15 William Street. In addition to the text amendment, SDS’s original proposal included a special permit request to expand a 65-space accessory parking facility into a 195-space public garage.

Under the modified plan, SDS would be permitted to widen a loading driveway curb cut from fifteen feet to twenty feet and extend a ten-foot curb cut to twenty feet in order to access a 65-space accessory parking garage.

Prior to the building’s construction, the site served as a surface parking lot used by trucks to access 40 Exchange Place and 25 Broad Street’s loading docks. During construction, SDS built a driveway with a fifteen-foot curb cut along the site’s western edge in order to maintain access to the loading areas.

Buildings initially authorized the loading driveway curb cut, but revoked the authorization because it conflicted with the Special Lower Manhattan District’s regulations. Buildings permitted SDS to use the original surface parking lot’s ten-foot wide curb cut to access its 65-space parking garage on a grandfathered basis.

During its review of the proposal, the City Planning Commission limited the scope of SDS’s proposed amendment and found a 195-space public garage inappropriate. The Commission found that permitting the loading driveway curb cut, and widening it by five feet, was appropriate because there was no alternate means of accessing the loading docks. However, the Commission stated that widening the parking garage curb cut would “erode the primacy of pedestrians” over vehicle traffic on the sidewalk.

The Commission denied the special permit request to expand the garage, stating that SDS’s proposed design would not provide the required number of reservoir spaces. It found that a ten-foot curb cut would only permit a single entrance/exit lane for the garage, which would be inadequate to serve a large parking facility. The Commission noted that SDS proposed reducing the size of the garage from 195 to 95 spaces, but stated that it would be “unprecedented” to approve a garage of that size with only a ten-foot curb cut.

At the Council’s Zoning & Franchises Subcommittee hearing on November 23, 2009, attorney Jay Segal, representing SDS, asked the Council to allow SDS to widen both the loading dock and parking garage curb cuts. He said SDS planned to leave the loading driveway curb cut at fifteen feet, and argued that pedestrian traffic would not be adversely affected by widening the parking garage curb cut to twenty feet.

The Subcommittee agreed, reversing the Commission’s modification, and approving SDS’s request to widen the parking garage curb cut to twenty feet. The Land Use Committee followed suit the next day, and the Council referred the modified proposal back to the Commission for review.

ULURP Process
Lead Agency: CPC,Neg.Dec.
Comm.Bd.: MN 1,App’d, 26-9-3
Boro.Pres.: App’d
CPC: App’d text amend., den’d spec. perm., 11-0-0
Council: Pending

Council: 15 William Street Garage (C 090294 ZSM – spec. perm.); (N 090293 ZRM – text amend.) (Nov. 24, 2009).

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