Curb cuts and parking amendments approved

Text amendment would introduce curb cut prohibitions and limit front yard parking spaces in certain residential districts. On February 24, 2010, the City Planning Commission approved, with modifications, the Department of City Planning’s Residential Streetscape Preservation text amendment. Planning proposed the City-wide amendment in response to community concerns about inappropriate curb cuts and front yard parking spaces in residential districts. Planning seeks to clarify parking requirements and preserve and enhance residential streetscapes.

The proposed amendment includes a host of modifications such as requiring new parking spaces in all single- and two-family districts to be located within a residential building or to the side or rear of a building. This requirement currently applies to R1 and R2 districts and certain districts in Lower Density Growth Management Areas in Staten Island and the Bronx. In order to ensure that required front yard plantings are of sufficient quality, the amendment would close a loophole that allows narrow strips of plantings located in driveways to count towards the required minimum front yard planting requirements.

In 2008, Justice Paul G. Feinman in Gruson v. The Department of City Planning, Index No. 106396/2008 (N.Y. Cyt.Sup.Ct. Sept. 10, 2008), ordered Planning to accept a building owner’s curb cut authorization application after it found that a section of the zoning resolution regulating curb cuts in “B” districts applied only to new construction and not existing buildings. In response to Gruson and to reinforce the Commission’s intent to prohibit curb cuts for narrow lots in medium- to high-density residential districts, the amendment would expressly prohibit curb cuts for any building or building segment less than 40 feet wide in R6B, R7B, and R8B districts. In addition, curb cuts in R4B and R5B districts would be prohibited on narrow zoning lots existing when the districts were created.

Although community boards, preservation groups, and elected officials were generally supportive of the proposal, several groups opposed aspects of the amendment. The New York City Housing Authority expressed concern that a proposed modification would prevent it from removing parking spaces from pre-1961 buildings if the spaces would be required under current zoning regulations. NYCHA noted that several housing projects, many of which were built prior to 1961, had underutilized parking lots that it planned to replace with housing or community facility buildings. The Citizens Housing & Planning Council and the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects recommended the Commission delay adopting the amendment until after the City completed its ongoing comprehensive parking study.

The Commission approved the proposal, but modified the amendment to address the concerns raised during public review. Among other modifications, the Commission eased the proposed restrictions on removing off-street parking spaces from pre-1961 buildings.

The Commission voted 11-0-1 to approve the proposal, with Commissioner Karen Phillips abstaining. Phillips said the competing policy issues raised during the review process, as well as the proposal’s impact on the City’s parking study, needed to be considered further.

The City Council must vote on the proposal by April 19, 2010.

CPC: Residential Streetscape Preservation Text (N 100139 ZRY – text amend.) (Feb. 24, 2010).

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