The Department of City Planning has initiated a process to rezone Sunnyside and part of Woodside. They have their agenda, developers have their agenda, and various residents and business owners have theirs.
Here’s my agenda: I think Sunnyside and Woodside have too much off-street parking. Off-street parking encourages people to own cars, and to drive, as shown in this PDF. That’s bad for the neighborhood. Worse is that new buildings are required to have parking that’s really not necessary. The result is that all the new apartment buildings have garages and curb cuts, messing up the pedestrian experience and encouraging people to own cars in the neighborhood.
Business owners in Sunnyside and Woodside should also be in favor of reducing parking minimums. None of them have much customer parking, so most customers arrive by foot. Neighborhood residents who own cars are often tempted to drive to competing businesses outside the neighborhood with more parking. Thus, it is in the interest of business owners to keep residential parking low.
The best thing would be if we could scrap all parking minimums, bringing Sunnyside and Woodside into the same category as Long Island City and most of Manhattan, but as far as I can tell that requires a change to the zoning resolution, which would need approval by the full Council and is thus outside the scope of these hearings.
The next best thing is to push the zoning towards zones with lower parking minimums, and resist pressure in the other direction. We should also keep in mind waivers for small numbers of spaces required under parking minimums. If someone wants a zone with a particular height, I would like to encourage them to go for the subtype with the least parking required, as follows:
- R4/R4A/R4B or less (100%) -> R5B (66%, waive up to 1 per lot). R4B (100%, but allowing waiver) is an improvement, but would still give us lots of curb cuts.
- R5/R5A (100%) -> R5B or R5D (66%, waive up to 1 per lot)
- R6 (70%, waive up to 5) -> R6A or R6B (50%, waive up to 5)
- R7-1 or R7B (60%, waive up to 5) -> any other R7 category (50%, waive up to 15)
- R8B -> any other R8 category
The good news is that the City Planning proposal already has mostly low-parking-requirement zones: R5B, R5D, R6A and R7A. There are some areas that have too-high parking requirements in the proposal: three zones in Woodside that are R4-1, and two in Sunnyside (47th Street and Sunnyside Towers) that are R4. These should be R5B. Sunnyhills and the Phipps Gardens would remain R4 under the proposal, which doesn’t make any sense; they should be R7-2.
I hope you will agree with me about the need to keep parking minimums low and waivers high. If you do, please go to meetings and support this agenda. If you have another agenda (changing the density, for example), you may be able to get my support if you also argue for a lower parking minimum.
To help you make up your own minds, here are documents and maps about the proposed Sunnyside and Woodside rezoning, courtesy of Thomas Smith and Penny Lee at the Department of City Planning:
- Sunnyside Woodside Color Blocks 022410.pdf
- Sunnyside Woodside Draft Zoning 022410.pdf
- Sunnyside Woodside ELZ 022410.pdf
- Zoning Comparison Chart 022410.pdf