Curb cut and parking regulations approved

Planning proposed amendment to address community concerns about inappropriate curb cuts and front yard parking spaces in residential areas. On April 14, 2010, the City Council approved the Department of City Planning’s Residential Streetscape Preservation text amendment. The amendment contains a host of changes, including applying stricter parking regulations in low-density residential districts, and establishing curb cut regulations in medium- and high-density districts that previously had none. It strengthens front yard planting requirements in low-density districts by closing a loophole that allowed narrow planting strips in driveways to count towards the required plantings. To ensure adequate parking is available, the amendment requires that residential enlargements and conversions in R3 and R4 districts provide additional off-street parking for each additional dwelling unit.

The text amendment also addressed a recent court decision ruling that a section of the zoning resolution prohibiting curb cuts in residential “B” districts applied only to new developments and not to existing buildings. The curb cut prohibition will now expressly apply to both existing and new buildings in “B” districts, reinforcing the City Planning Commission’s original intent.

During the Commission’s review, several community groups noted that the amendment would prevent the New York City Housing Authority from converting underutilized parking spaces at its pre-1961 buildings into new affordable housing. The Citizens Housing & Planning Council opposed a requirement that property owners in R3 and R4 districts would need to provide an additional parking space for new dwelling units added to an existing building. The group argued the rule would discourage the creation of additional housing and encourage illegal conversions.

The Commission, modifying the amendment, exempted certain NYCHA properties from restrictions on removing parking spaces from its pre-1961 buildings. 7 CityLand 25 (March 15, 2010).

At Council’s Zoning & Franchises Subcommittee hearing on April 7, the executive director of Chhaya, a Queens-based community development organization, reiterated concerns that requiring additional parking spaces for enlargements to existing homes in R3 and R4 districts would discourage home owners from pursuing legal conversions. A representative from the Pratt Center for Community Development argued that it would be premature to approve the amendment until Planning completed its ongoing Citywide parking study.

Before the Land Use Committee’s vote on April 14, Chair Leroy Comrie stated that the Mayor’s Office had made commitments to have further discussions about requiring additional parking space for new dwelling units in R3 and R4 districts. The amendment passed with a vote of 17-2-1. Explaining his no vote, Council Member Charles Barron said that the R3 and R4 district issue had not yet been resolved and could be burdensome to homeowners in those neighborhoods. Council Member Jumaane D. Williams joined in opposition, and Council Member Rosie Mendez abstained.

The full Council approved the amendment later that day.

Council: Residential Streetscape Preservation Text (April 14, 2010).

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