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Air Quality

City Wants 20,000 New Parking Spaces in Hell’s Kitchen

12:43 PM EDT on June 1, 2007

It seems inconceivable given the overwhelmingly positive developments of the past few weeks, but the city wants to increase parking in Manhattan by some 20,000 spaces, and is defending itself in court for the right to do so.

The Bloomberg and Spitzer administrations are working together to hold on to a rezoning provision that would dramatically increase required parking inventory for new development in the Hudson Yards area on the far West Side. The parking plan is a holdover from the failed Jets stadium deal -- and it's illegal, according to the Hell's Kitchen Neighborhood Association (HKNA) and others who have filed suit against Mayor Bloomberg, City Planning Director Amanda Burden, the MTA and the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

The suit alleges that the parking requirements, adopted in 2005, are in violation of a 1982 agreement to keep the city in compliance with the Clean Air Act. Further, plaintiffs question the validity of the city's environmental impact statement regarding planned development for the area.

For its part, the DEC is attempting to remove references to parking from its Clean Air Act State Implementation Plan (SIP). The state currently limits the amount of parking that can be attached to development below 60th Street, but the DEC says parking should not be considered part of the SIP since the city was not legally required to consider parking as part of its compliance strategy. Further, the DEC says parking falls under the jurisdiction of city planners, not state officials.

To justify itself and the city, the state is submitting reams of paperwork in an effort to prove carbon monoxide levels are declining. The HKNA and others reply that the air quality numbers are not specific to the far West Side and that they ignore ozone and particulates -- all of which would be increased substantially from car trips generated by 20,000-plus additional parking spots.

And it should go without saying that while the city is on one hand claiming it can withstand such an environmental blow, Mayor Bloomberg's campaign for congestion pricing -- and indeed, most of PlaNYC itself -- is based on the acknowledgment that the air New Yorkers breathe is dangerously polluted and carbon emissions must be curbed.

Nevertheless, the city is about to start soliciting bids for a massive underground parking deck, originally intended for car-driving Jets fans, that will house 950 cars and occupy six blocks.

The DEC held a hearing on its proposed SIP alteration last week, but officials didn't show up, due to what was later described to Streetsblog as an "administrative error." The hearing is supposed to be rescheduled for sometime in July, and the comment period will remain open at least until then, according to the DEC's Robert Bielawa.

The HKNA lawsuit, meanwhile, having been delayed by the city and state for two years, has recently entered the discovery phase.

Photo: midweekpost/Flickr 

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