Board Offers Strong Support for Curb Cut Restrictions

One local volunteer group has given its blessing to an effort by city officials to tighten restrictions on curb cuts.

Community Board 14, at its January meeting, which was held at Edward R. Murrow High School, 1600 Avenue L, voted unanimously to recommend the adoption of the Residential Streetscape Preservation Text Amendment.

The amendment was officially released by the Department of City Planning (DCP) in November, and is currently undergoing the mandated public review process.

Overall, the goal of the amendment is to protect the character of residential communities which are being altered as more and more people cut the curbs and pave over their front gardens. To that end, it makes numerous changes in existing zoning to eliminate loopholes now being taken advantage of.

For example, the amendment tightens the regulations regarding unpaved space that were the key to the 2008 Yards Text Amendment.

To that end, the new text amendment requires that planting areas be a minimum of a foot in width, and, while allowing driveway plantings, the amendment prevents such plantings from counting toward the planted area requirement triggered by new construction or significant alterations to an existing building.

In addition, the amendment eliminates the ability of homeowners to add curb cuts and parking pads in many areas of the city if their property is less than 35 feet in width.

While curb cuts that were made legally before the amendment goes into effect will be grandfathered in, the amendment will not legalize those that were made without the proper permits.

The amendment also adds curb cut regulations to commercial districts and zoning districts characterized by large multifamily apartment buildings that today have no such rules.

Under the amendment, new development requiring 50 or fewer parking spaces will be allowed one 11-foot curb cut. Larger developments will be allowed two 11-foot curb cuts or one 22-foot curb cut.

Besides adding restrictions to limit the number of curb cuts, the changes are also meant to make the sections of the city’s labyrinthine Zoning Resolution that deal with curb cuts easier to understand and to enforce.

What the amendment does not do, stressed board Secretary Joe Dweck, is deal with the proliferation of illegal curb cuts that are changing the local streetscape.

“This proposed law is not for those,” Dweck noted, adding, “We want to have an initiative to address all those illegal curb cuts. That’s a separate issue from this.”

The board’s effort in that regard is already on track, said CB 14 Chairperson Alvin Berk, who told board members that a meeting on the subject with DCP, the Department of Buildings and the mayor’s office was being set up for February.

The frustration about the illegal curb cuts is, “An ongoing concern,” Berk went on, noting, We’ve heard it from many residents of the community.”