Did City Planning Approve 430 Extra Parking Spaces at Riverside Center?

The 1992 Riverside South environmental impact statement shows that City Planning has replaced the on-site parking for Riverside Center twice, building 430 too many spaces.
The 1992 Riverside South environmental impact statement shows that City Planning intended to replace 1,000 parking spaces that were already in use at the vacant Riverside Center site (see "On-Site Demand"). Those replacement spaces had already been accounted for when City Planning approved 430 new replacement spaces for the Riverside Center project.

Even by its own math, the City Planning Commission seems to have approved 430 parking spots too many at Riverside Center, the new development slated to straddle 60th Street on the far West Side.

Last month the commission approved 1,260 parking spots for the project, 430 of which are intended to replace some of the parking that currently exists on the undeveloped site. The catch is that City Planning has already replaced those 430 parking spaces, allowing hundreds of extra spaces to be built on two sites a block north, according to environmental planner Dan Gutman, who’s been tracking the project for the better part of 20 years.

In other words, City Planning seem to be allowing hundreds of parking spaces to be “built twice.”

Here’s a quick breakdown of how it happened:

  • In 1992, there were 1,000 parking spaces on the Riverside Center site.
  • City Planning approved plans for the larger Riverside South development, which stretches all the way from 72nd Street to 59th Street, that made sure to build new parking to replace those 1,000 spaces.
  • Construction is now underway for one of the two buildings containing the bulk of those 1,000 replacement spaces, and the other project is close behind.
  • In approving the plans for Riverside Center, City Planning required 430 more spaces to be built, specifically to handle the same on-site parkers. There was no mention of previous allowances for those same cars.

As with so much at Riverside Center, this story dates back to 1992, when Donald Trump struck a deal to develop the entire riverfront from 72nd Street to 59th Street, a project known as Riverside South. In that deal, 3,500 parking spaces were allotted to the entire development.

If Riverside Center, which occupies a site between 61st Street and 59th Street, were to adhere to that 3,500 space cap, it would include far fewer than the 1,260 spaces approved by City Planning two weeks ago. Many involved in the project have argued, however, that because the plans have changed so much over the last twenty years (a television studio was originally slated for the Riverside Center site), that the 3,500 total isn’t relevant anymore.

Even if you buy that argument, however, you can’t throw out the 1992 agreement entirely. The 3,500 total came from two different calculations. 2,500 of the spaces were intended to serve the new residences and offices being built at Riverside South. That’s the number that should change based on what gets built on the site.

The remaining 1,000 spaces, however, were to satisfy “on-site demand” — cars already parked where the new development would go. According to the final environmental impact statement from 1992 (you can also check out part 1 here), “the present on-site 850-space public parking lot and the 150-space private parking lot (leased to Con Edison) would close and their demands would be assigned to the 12 new on-site garages.” Both of those parking lots were on the site of what is currently Riverside Center, according to the FEIS.

According to Gutman, the environmental planner who worked on the original 1992 agreement, the bulk of those spaces ended up being placed in the final stages of Riverside South construction, called sites J and K, two and one blocks north of Riverside Center, respectively. Site J is currently under construction and Site K has received approval under the 1992 plan, with the replacement parking spaces included. Site K, for instance, will include 699 parking spaces for only 520 residences — hundreds more than the local parking ratios call for. Some of the replacement spaces were also allocated to the current Riverside Center site.

Fast forward to two weeks ago, when the City Planning Commission approved 1,260 parking spaces for Riverside Center. By their calculations [PDF], 830 of those spaces are to serve the new development, and 430 of them are for people who currently park at the on-site lots (that’s after finding spaces for other on-site parkers in neighborhood lots). And there’s the problem. Those 430 spaces have been approved twice. The on-site parkers are getting replacement spaces both at sites J and K and at Riverside Center.

We’ve asked City Planning to confirm that on-site parking has now been replaced twice and to explain why that happened. They said they’ll get back to us in a few days, and we’ll post their response. For now, however, it appears that there will be 430 spaces too many at Riverside Center, even if you accept every step of City Planning’s logic.