BP Reynoso, Restler demand a cut in minimum parking requirements

Off-road rage: Locals irate over parking-price increases at Kings Plaza
Photo by Steve Solomonson

Borough President Antonio Reynoso and northern Brooklyn Councilmember Lincoln Restler are demanding an end to minimum parking requirements for new construction in transit-rich areas. 

When a developer seeks a rezoning to build taller developments, they’re often forced to build off-street parking — which is designed to reduce the impact that new construction has on parking in the neighborhood. 

But now, the group of electeds signed a petition letter calling on the Department of City Planning (DCP) to fully waive parking constraints for all residential developers of any rezoning projects in public transit-rich areas.

The representatives aim to disincentivize people living in areas with access to subways and buses from using and buying cars, with the intention to reduce carbon emissions and improve the “borough’s urban fabric” — all while providing developers with the option to redirect space toward construction of more affordable housing, said Restler in an exclusive to the Brooklyn paper.

“The accessory parking in buildings on key mixed-use corridors like Fourth Avenue, Flatbush Avenue, and Fulton Street disrupt our borough’s urban fabric, making our City less affordable, less walkable, and incentivizes car ownership,” read the electeds’ letter to the DCP. “The last place we need developers to build accessory parking is in areas with substantial access to public transportation. We need to reduce car ownership in our city, and requiring new parking within close proximity to public transit has the opposite effect.”

Restler pointed to one 28-unit rising project just outside the Bedford subway station, which includes 14 required parking spots on the ground level — saying that, in addition to other problems, such requirements often make the construction “drab, dark, and lifeless.” 

“Because below-grade parking is so expensive to construct, many developments across the city do so on the ground-floor, leading to drab, dark, lifeless streets rather than dynamic ground floor retail and community facility spaces that generate jobs and fulfill critical neighborhood’s needs,” said a statement from Restler on Monday.

Even though there are many businesses around the crossroad of Bedford Ave. and North Seventh Street, it is not confirmed that the new building will have commercial spaces.

Within slightly over 2 square miles, Williamsburg residents have access to the four bus lines and seven subway stations.

“This is an example of an area that doesn’t need more parking, doesn’t need more cars, for sure,” said Reynoso. “So it’s a model development for us to use as a first shot at showing people that parking requirements should not be used here. Also, I think the most important thing is that the parking requirements being removed, allows for more housing to be built. It makes the projects less expensive. It also makes it so that instead of taking down, you can build up, so we got more housing out of this proposal.”

As the city bounces back from the COVID pandemic, real estate prices and housing demand have been restored and continue to rise.

“A lot of the pushback that we get from developers over how much affordable housing they can build is that they have to build out these spaces for cars, that could be spaces for people, but it’s a requirement by law,” said Reynoso. “So I guess there’s an assumption that instead of parking there will be housing. How much affordable housing would really depend on who’s negotiating the project as a councilmember and where and how much of it is a part of Mandatory Inclusionary Housing. So it’s not it’s not so cut and dry. But it should make it less expensive to build.”

Reynoso said he will hold developers accountable for building affordable housing if the petition passes at the DCP.

“Historically, at the Department of City Planning, this wasn’t something they would necessarily be open to,” said Reynoso. “If they would have been, it could have happened already, but it is our job to convince them.”