Zoning proposal would relax parking requirement for affordable and senior apartment buildings

Zoning proposal would relax parking requirement for affordable and senior apartment buildings
Community News Group/Photo by Patrick Rocchio

Parking spaces will be a thing of the past if the mayor’s senior housing proposal goes into effect.

A decade ago many east Bronx community leaders pushed for downzoning and more stringent parking requirements for multi-family buildings.

Now a Department of City Planning proposal to relax parking requirements for construction of senior and affordable housing along major subway/transit lines, like those in Pelham Bay and Pelham Parkway, have some people who fought for downzoning feeling betrayed.

The plan is part of Mayor de Blasio’s pledge to create or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next ten years.

“I, as a member of the council, look at these proposals both citywide and in terms of how it affects my district,” said Councilman James Vacca. “I am not going to let any proposal go unchallenged that undoes the downzoning that we, and (certainly I), fought for since 2003.”

Many seniors in his district drive, said Vacca, and the borough does not have the transportation network Manhattan does. He said it is unrealistic to think that seniors who live near subways would not want cars.

For senior housing specifically, the proposal calls for reducing parking requirements “for new low-income senior housing in the medium-density districts.”

It also would allow affordable senior housing to reduce parking requirements by a Board of Standards and Appeals special permit. It also affects certain height requirements.

Andrew Chirico, a board member at the Waterbury-LaSalle Community Association, a group that offered some of the most full-throated calls for reduced density, expressed skepticism of the plan and said that both infrastructure and city services need to be studied.

Instead of less parking, he called for higher parking requirements for apartment buildings.

“Whether it is for senior housing or affordable housing or any other type of housing, we are constantly fighting for more parking spaces,” said Chirico.

The DCP states in the proposal that “the cost of providing off-street parking can hamper the production of affordable housing” and that by 2040, there will be many more seniors living here.

A DCP spokesman stated that the proposal is looking to make changes to the Zoning Resolution, a master document that regulates city zoning, in specific ways.

“It makes specific, targeted changes to the shape buildings are allowed to take, but doesn’t change zoning districts mapped within neighborhoods,” he stated.

With affordable senior housing, nothing in the proposal restricts that inclusion of parking, he stated.

To view the a presentation of the plan online, visit:www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/pdf/zoning-qa/presentation_0215.pdf

Comments on the draft proposal will be accepted through Thursday, April 30. Written comments can be sent to Robert Dobruskin, Director, Environmental Assessment and Review Division, New York City Department of City Planning, 22 Reade Street, 4E, New York, New York 10007 or be emailed to AHOUSING@planning.nyc.gov.

DCP will also provide district-specific information to the community boards, so they can see how the proposals affect their communities.

Ken Kearns, Community Board 10 district manager, said that the plan focuses more on areas with a “preponderance of multi-family dwellings.” He added that CB 10 would comment.

Much of CB 10 is low-rise, and the DCP spokesman said the proposal would not affect one- and two-family zones.

The public engagement is welcome news to activist John Doyle, leader of an east Bronx citizen’s committee studying traffic and transportation infrastructure, who noted that Mayor de Blasio ran on a platform of grassroots planning.

“There should be a greater engagement from DCP with community-based organizations,” he said.

According to a published report, community boards from around Queens have concerns about the parking requirement, and have expressed the same concerns as leaders in the east Bronx community.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.