Residents of the streets surrounding the Atlantic Yards Project have numerous concerns about impacts that will follow the opening of Barclays Center arena, but few are greater than the effect of a new surface parking lot planned for the block bordered by Carlton Avenue, Vanderbilt Avenue, Dean Street and Pacific Street. The block is known as block 1129.
Following FCRC's renegotiation of the project plan in 2009, the duration of use of block 1129 for surface parking was extended, the number of spaces were increased, and up to two cars were assigned to each space using stackers. In addition, for the first time all the parking planned for the arena was concentrated there. Originally scheduled to be an "interim" surface lot in place for perhaps four years, it is now likely the full block of parking will be in place for at least 12 years, by which point the developer is required to start the construction of one residential building on the block. The remainder of the site can remain a parking lot for as long as 25 years or more since the project's development agreement allows further extension under certain conditions.
The picture on the left above commissioned by AYW is an illustration of the lot configuration and stackers necessary to provide the 1,100 parking spaces specified in the 2009 Atlantic Yards Modified General Project Plan. Given the density and number of parking spaces, the lot would not comply with New York City's design standards for surface parking lots. For comparison, the picture on the right shows a possible design for parking on block 1129 based upon City standards. (Click on the pictures to enlarge.)
NYC requirements for surface parking lots
The design of surface parking lots in New York City is regulated by the Department of City Planning, which adopted new guidelines for such areas in 2007. DCP requires lots and their perimeters to be landscaped in order to improve their aesthetics, lessen their environmental impacts and increase safety. Here are the goals as detailed in the guidelines:
- Mitigate vast expanses of pavement through landscaping
- Improve quality of local streetscape
- Increase tree canopy to reduce "Heat Island Effect"
- Increase permeability to mitigate storm water runoff
- Improve pedestrian and vehicular circulation
DCP regulations include minimum requirements for street trees, perimeter screening and interior landscaping as well as standards for manueverability. The IKEA parking lot provides an illustration of how these guidelines can work in practice. The lot features planting islands at the ends of parking rows, and planted medians between rows and bordering streets.
(Photos by Racked)
Applying DCP guidelines to parking on block 1129
When DCP required landscaping is applied to block 1129 and no stackers are used, the lot is reduced to approximately 500 spaces. As the design standards require, inside the lot there is one tree per every eight cars. The lot has an eight foot wide planted median in every other parking row. There is no row longer than 15 spaces without being interrupted with a planting bed containing a tree. The AYW lot also meets DCP minimums by spacing a street tree every 25 feet along the outside perimeter. Given its proximity to residential buildings, AYW's design admittedly exceeds DCP requirements by including both a seven foot or wider landscaped perimeter and a "green wall" for screening.
As a concession to the possibility the lot may be built over relatively soon, the permanent trees shown in the illustration could be replaced by potted trees, maintaining many but not all of the benefits.
With these steps, the compliant lot has the advantages of absorbing most stormwater on site, taxing city sewers less and reducing the Heat Island Effect. In addition, the landscaping helps planners control pedestrian crossings and make the lot safer. Finally, aesthetics are improved for residents who live nearby, visitors to retail businesses on Vanderbilt Avenue and arena patrons.
We have also included a few additional improvements to lessen the lot's environmental impacts and integrate it more into the community given its interim status.
- In order to lessen impacts on neighborhood streets, there are no mid-block curb cuts on Dean Street, Carlton Avenue or Vanderbilt to enter or exit the lot. Unlike the plan detailed by FCRC in 2010, which in addition to two Pacific Street entrances has entrances mid-block on all the perimeter streets, in our lot the gates are located instead mid-block on Pacific Street. The FCRC plan places the Pacific Street entrances at the Carlton and Vanderbilt intersections.
- As illustrated to the right, a small building or pavilion for retail has been placed at Dean Street and Carlton Avenue to compliment and encourage the growth of Vanderbilt Avenue's retail economy.
- Pacific Street has been opened 24/7 to restore a lost connection for the neighborhood for pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles.
- "Green walls" along Dean Street and Carlton Avenue have been added to provide more dense screening, lower the Heat Island Effect, and improve sound absorption.
- Although not visible in the illustration, strategic use of permeable pavement is used to reduce stormwater runoff.
Not an end state
AYW's rendering is intended to illustrate the opportunity to reduce the impact of a surface parking lot with an indefinite lifespan utilizing guidelines already adopted by NYC DCP. Not only does the result harmonize more easily with the surrounding streets and neighborhood, but it has far fewer cars, thereby reducing traffic drawn to the site as well.
The Atlantic Yards General Project Plan requested and received from the City numerous zoning overrides, including an override of regulations on the location of accessory parking, necessary for FCRC to build the Barclays Center parking lot two avenues east of the arena itself. However, Atlantic Yards never requested exemption from landscaping regulations for surface parking lots. If FCRC were to comply with City's guidelines, the lot would have better aesthetics, improved environmental characteristics, and fewer cars.
Although the lot improvements suggested in the rendering are intended to partially address the impact of a surface parking lot on block 1129, AYW's proposed plan does not represent the desired end state. Block 1129 was intended to be the site of affordable housing, open space, and other public benefits. The expectation of these benefits in a ten year time-frame was a key factor in the approval of Atlantic Yards. In the wake of Justice Friedman's decision, the State is required to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement and, as in 2009, can rework the project plan with FCRC to deliver the promised benefits earlier.
Contributing: Gib Veconi
Lot illustrations: Joel Stipano
Base photo and arena illustration: Jonathan Barkey and Tracy Collins