The Department of City Planning recently put forward a citywide zoning text amendment to preserve and enhance the streetscape character of residential neighborhoods. The text amendment closes loopholes in front yard planting requirements, responds to concerns of Community Boards and elected officials related to inappropriate curb cuts and front yard parking pads, and clarifies parking requirements for new dwelling units created in existing homes and for older residential buildings developed before there were parking requirements.

CHPC’s Zoning Committee met with DCP to discuss this initiative and also moderated a DCP presentation of the rezoning jointly with AIANY at the Center for Architecture on January 15th. We testified against a major part of this testimony at both the DCP and the subsequent City Council hearing.

Our major concern was the practical implications of requiring a new parking space complying with the more stringent new standards for a created unit in an existing residence in R3 and R4 districts. Although laudable in intent, we foresee that this will serve as an additional disincentive to legalized conversions. Section 25-21 of the proposed text amendment clarifies that new parking spaces must be provided for new dwelling units created by addition to, or conversion of, the existing housing stock in R3 and R4 districts. However, legal dwelling unit conversions will be unintentionally discouraged by the additional required parking space in two ways: either the prohibitive cost, or the infeasibility of locating a second legal parking space on the lot. As a result, owners will either not create new units, continuing our struggle with an inefficient housing stock, or will perform undocumented illegal conversions, thereby increasing the hazards to health and safety that have already claimed the lives of so many New Yorkers through preventable fires.

You can read our full policy brief on the issue here (pdf)

Update: During public review, the City Planning Commission modified the language regarding the removal of parking spaces from buildings created before 1961 in response to CHPC’s testimony. We expressed concern that this amendment would restrict the NYCHA strategy to develop on their underutilized land. DCP agreed to a language change that now states:

“For dwelling units or rooming units constructed pursuant to the zoning regulations in effect after July 20, 1950 and prior to December 15, 1961, off-street parking spaces accessory to such dwelling units or rooming units cannot be removed if such spaces were required by such zoning regulations, unless such spaces would not be required pursuant to the applicable zoning regulations currently in effect.”