Parking Puzzles of the Outer Boroughs

By Austin Regan

Over the last decade, many architectural firms that traditionally have done the majority of their work in the borough of Manhattan have found themselves with quite substantial jobs in the other boroughs, especially Brooklyn and Queens. While the scale and density of these outer borough projects are also starting to mimic the look of Manhattan developments, there is one crucial programmatic difference – parking. While Manhattan developments have creeped north recently, traditionally the bulk of major products have occurred in the Manhattan core which is defined in the Zoning Resolution as “the area within Manhattan community districts 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 & 8.” This generally equates to anywhere on Manhattan below 96th Street.

Not only is parking not required in this area but there are limits on how much parking one can provide within the Manhattan core. For instance ZR 13-11 dictates that parking spaces are only permitted for residential developments in CB 1 through 6 at a ratio of 1 space for every 5 apartments. The full rules regarding the types and amount of parking that is permitted in the Manhattan core can be found in Article I, Chap. 3 of the Zoning Resolution.

Designing required parking into a project can dictate a lot of other design decisions for a development and many times can limit the size of what can be built. The amount of required spaces is always directly related to the amount of dwelling units in a residential development or the amount of square feet proposed for a commercial or manufacturing development. The residential (Article II), commercial (Article III) and manufacturing (Article IV) sections of the Zoning Resolution each have chapters devoted to required parking rules and curb cut and location restrictions.

There is one major area in the outer boroughs where parking is not required – Long Island City. As the area has grown more popular with developers the understood boundaries of Long Island City has grown. The Zoning Resolutions understanding of the boundaries of Long Island City has also grown but not necessarily in the same manner as the public’s perception. Article I, Chapter 6 of the Zoning Resolution provides a map (ZR 16-03) which shows the exact boundaries of the Long Island City area where parking is not required to be provided. Much like the Manhattan core, the amount of parking that is permitted to be provided is also limited.

The creation by City Planning of the Special Long Island City Mixed Use District in 2001 helped spur much of the development occurring today in the area. Appendix A of Article XI, Chap. 7 shows the boundaries of this Special District. There are major differences in the two boundaries. While the LIC Special District is mainly North of Sunnyside yards, The No Parking area stretches south of Queens Blvd to 48th Ave and from the canal known as Dutch Kills west to the river bordered by Newtown Creek.

Ironically, the LIC Special district was expanded northward to include a sub district called Dutch Kills. This area is outside the border where parking is not required. The no parking area also extends along Queens Plaza South to the river but this area is well outside the LIC Special District.

While the fact that this no parking area exists in part of Queens may not be news to many, one cannot assume that just because a property is described as being located in Long Island City that it is automatically exempt from parking requirements. Even City Planning has different ideas what constitutes the borders of Long Island City depending on what part of the Zoning Resolution you are reviewing.