In downtown Brooklyn, surrounded by mass transit, a forty two story luxury building houses 256 parking spaces, taking up two stories. This may not seem like a lot of spaces for the 40 stories worth of residents, but only half of the spaces are being used. The problem is that the building’s residents have chosen this location because it is close to mass transit. If the majority of residents do not drive a car, why did developers create so many parking spaces? The reason is zoning regulations, and very out of date regulations at that. Zoning regulations set in 1951, in Brooklyn and surrounding areas state that for every ten rental units of public housing there should be four parking spots (with some variation). Because of this rule several buildings have parking garages where half of the spaces are empty. Not many New Yorkers have cars in mass transit areas and those who do take advantage of free street parking. With so many people parking on the street they are circling looking for a spot and creating a lot of emissions. This does not see eye to eye with the Mayor’s hopes of a sustainable city.
Even developers know the demand for parking is very low in garages so they choose to build the minimum number of spaces that the rules require. The Clean Air Act set a cap on the number of spots per building; too bad this doesn’t change anything since the maximum number of spots were never built. The Mayor has tried to change these mandates before but City Hall said that “people are emotional about parking," so no changes were made. There has been recent talk about reforms. One option is to allow residential garages in Manhattan to rent spaces out to the public and another option is to reduce the number of required spots in mass transit areas. Even with these changes, it is hard to compete with free street parking.
In my opinion these zoning regulations should have been changed years ago. The number of spaces required for public housing needs to be reduced, especially in transit areas. People who have a car are going to continue to drive and continue to park on the street. This may change if spaces can be rented out, but only in areas of great interest and for a low enough cost. Even so, there needs to be a drastic change to not only zoning regulations but street parking before there is any significant move towards a sustainable city.