4 More City Council Members Weigh in on Parking Reform

The mayor is proposing the elimination of parking requirements in new affordable housing projects within the designated "transit zone," in purple: Image: DCP
The mayor’s rezoning proposal eliminates minimum parking requirements for subsidized housing within the designated “transit zone,” in purple: Image: DCP

Last week, City Hall’s proposal to reduce parking minimums for subsidized housing near transit got a hearing in the City Council, and for the most part it wasn’t pretty. Council members may say they want more affordable housing, but for many of them, that support gets shaky if it means requiring less parking in residential development.

The parking reforms are part of a larger rezoning package that needs approval from the City Council in order to be enacted. Some changes are expected before a vote is held, and lower parking requirements could be in jeopardy, especially in areas where council members are hostile to the idea.

Last week we published what council members said about parking minimums during the hearing. Streetsblog is calling around to get more council members on the record. Here’s what we’ve heard so far — this batch of four council reps gives more cause for optimism than last week’s batch of nine.

Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez (Washington Heights, Inwood)

YRHSRodriguez, whose Upper Manhattan district is in the transit zone, took to Twitter last week to reiterate his support for the parking reforms. Rodriguez had previously voiced his support for eliminating parking minimums entirely. Speaking at NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation in October, Rodriguez argued for the elimination of parking minimums to help get New Yorkers out of cars and into other modes of transportation. “If we can broaden these reforms beyond just affordable and senior housing,” he said, “we will encourage residents to find new, safe and efficient ways to get to work without straining their pockets or our streets.”

Ritchie Torres (Central Bronx)

Council Member Ritchie Torres. Photo: Brian Frinke

When I spoke to Torres last month about DOT and the community board process, I asked him about parking minimums. He was unequivocal in his support for the new parking policies, pointing to the adverse impact parking requirements have on the cost of housing. “The dollars wasted on unused parking should go to housing,” he said. “Most of my constituents who come to me care more about affordable housing than parking.”

Carlos Menchaca (Sunset Park, Red Hook)

District38_MenchacaA significant chunk of Menchaca’s district is not in the “transit zone” where the parking reforms would apply. At last week’s hearing, he pointed to private bus companies that go between Brooklyn and Manhattan’s respective Chinatowns as evidence that the “transit zones” require further investigation, implying that he might want to expand the zone in his district. But he did not express an opinion one way or the other on the elimination of parking minimums. When Streetsblog spoke to Menchaca earlier that week, he said he was still undecided on the matter and looking forward to exploring it further during the hearing process. “The concerns that I’ve heard, I think, are well-founded,” Menchaca said. “We’re going to think some innovative ways to rethink this and offer some changes, and really think about the transit zones, the non-transit zones that might be transit zones.”

James Vacca (Northeast Bronx)

vacca_headshotA long-time proponent of free parking, Vacca has opposed the elimination of parking minimums since he was chair of the City Council transportation committee.Not much of Vacca’s district, which includes a segment of the 6 train, would be affected by City Hall’s proposal. But in a Bronx Times article from December, Vacca doubled down on his opposition to the proposed parking reforms. He cite the proposal’s goal of increased density in particular. “I was one of those back in 2003 that started the fight to reduce density of developments, and we down-zoned every part of my district from 2003 on,” Vacca said. “I am not going to let those gains go out the window by a plan that makes buildings taller or denser or eliminates parking requiremen­ts.”