Enthusiastic support for changes in curb cut rules

After extensive study and discussion, Community Board 10 has voted resoundingly to support changes to the city’s zoning code that will curtail the creation of new curb cuts.

The vote occurred at the board’s January meeting, which was held in the community room at Shore Hill, 9000 Shore Road, with seven separate votes taken, as each of the recommendations of the board’s Zoning and Land Use Committee was individually considered.

The review of the Streetscape Text Amendment — which alters over 40 sections of the city’s Zoning Resolution — began in November when it was certified by the Department of City Planning (DCP). The board’s consideration and vote are part of ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure), a multi-step process which gives residents and individuals at various levels of city government the opportunity to express their opinion of the proposed changes.

The community board has 60 days to make its recommendation before the process shifts to borough hall. After the borough president comments on the proposals, the plan moves to the City Planning Commission and the City Council.

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

In particular, CB 10 members saluted a provision in the text amendment that would prevent homeowners from cutting the curb and putting in parking pads in front of homes less than 35 feet in width, though the vast majority of board members would like to see it taken even farther, recommending — with two dissenting votes and one recusal — that DCP extend the provision to eliminate “all new front yard parking.”

This issue, in particular, hits close to home for the board, which had fought strenuously against a curb cut permit issued to a homeowner on 70th Street between Eighth Avenue and Fort Hamilton Parkway. That home, one of 19 attached houses dating from the early years of the 20th century, was granted a permit based on the presumed existence of a “side lot ribbon,” even though the house didn’t have a side yard, to the dismay of residents on the block who were unhappy over the defacement of the row of homes

In its votes, the board expressed support for provisions that would strengthen the recently passed Yards Text Amendment, by requiring that greenery counting toward minimum planting requirements be a minimum of one foot in width and not be located in the driveway of a property.

The board also expressed its support for adding curb cut requirements in higher density zoning districts which currently have no curb cut rules, and for changes in zoning provisions to allow higher garages in keeping with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements to accommodate accessible vehicles.

At the same time, however, seeing a potential loophole in the latter, members voted to recommend strictures to prevent the greater height from being used for other purposes, such as adding living space above a garage.

To the same end, the board also voted to recommend that, if a new parking space “is created pursuant to the text amendment and such garage space is converted to non-parking uses, the adjacent driveway space not be permitted to be used for parking.”

Allen Bortnick was one of the two board members to vote against the recommendation that DCP extend the front yard parking prohibition.

“Everyone has a car,” he contended. “There are two and three car families. Where are they going to put their cars if we‘re not allowing them to park on their grounds? Land Use and Transportation should get together and try to hammer this out. We are fighting ourselves and not accomplishing anything.”

One thing the change in zoning requirements doesn’t impact is the ability of the city to make sure that residents do not make illegal curb cuts and parking pads.

“Clearly the biggest problem — and this doesn’t affect it — has to do with enforcement,” acknowledged Joanne Seminara, the board’s chair, who had served as Zoning Committee chair through the discussions of the changes being proposed.