The city has chosen planting over parking, passing new regulations that will make it harder for residents of parking-starved neighborhoods to turn their front lawns into private driveways.
The new rules, approved by City Council on April 30, will require residents of low- density neighborhoods such as Windsor Terrace, Kensington and Bay Ridge to reserve a space in their front yards for foliage.
“This amendment will limit or even eliminate the propensity of people to remove front yards and replace them with driveways and curb cuts,” said Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge). “This has been an ongoing issue within my district and I’m glad the city is taking steps to address the problem.”
Residents of attached homes will need to reserve between 20 and 25 percent of their front yards for “any combination of grass, groundcover, shrubs, trees or other living plant material,” according to the Department of City Planning proposal, which applies to 70 percent of the city’s residentially zoned areas.
If property owners have enough room for homemade driveways alongside their newly required gardens, they can still pave over their lawns, a Department of City Planning spokeswoman said.
That said, getting approval for the controversial curb cuts isn’t easy.
Homeowners will still need to apply to the Department of Buildings, submit a drawing of the proposed cut, provide a recent survey of the sidewalk, and pay $100.
Or they can illegally jackhammer their curbs and cement their lawns — at the risk of fines from the city and glares from neighbors.
Opponents of the makeshift carports say the home improvements neighborhoods of their historic integrity and greatly limit the amount of public parking in areas already burdened by a glut of cars and a dearth of spaces to park them.
“When you sacrifice one public space for a private one, the impact on public parking is significant,” said Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Bay Ridge’s Community Board 10. “Some of the curb cuts here are very ugly.”
Of course, not everyone hates curb cuts. Many drivers say that in the Escalade-eat-Prius world of Bay Ridge parking, anything goes — curb cuts included.
“The parking here is so bad that I don’t see a problem with curb cuts at all,” said Eddie Franklin, who is sympathetic to curb-cutters, though he is not one of them.
Others would disagree. Ovington Avenue between Third and Fourth avenues has lost six legal parking spots to these currently legal curb cuts.
No wonder Beckmann has been driven mad — but she’s not sure whether the new regulations will actually reduce curb cuts.
“I don’t know that it will prevent front yard curb cuts entirely, or just dress them up with grass,” Beckmann said.