Build NYC for people, not cars – New York Daily News


Robert Moses, the powerful civil servant who controlled several planning agencies in New York City and the state from the 1920s to the 1960s, transformed the greater New York City area with megaprojects from Jones Beach and Lincoln Center to the Triboro Bridge and the Brooklyn-Queens Highway. Musa’s legacy is complex and far from the pound. He demolished entire neighborhoods and displaced the weak and the colored in pursuit of “urban renewal”; His construction of the Cross-Bronx highway is still responsible for some of the highest rates of childhood asthma in the country. Our elected officials are well aware of Moses’ legacy – nearly all of them keep Robert Caro’s “Power broker” on their shelves – but that’s not enough. We want them to use their power to undo the damage Moses left behind and move our city into the 21st century.


Moses’ decades-old work had a central idea: to make New York a car-centric city at a time when broad highways and the family car signaled a new kind of freedom and prosperity, even if that “freedom” was more readily available to upper-middle-class whites in New York. Many of Moses’ contemporaries shared this thinking and vision, and arguably saw his apotheosis in the 1961 New York City Zoning Resolution. Zoning governs how city land can be used—and sometimes how it should—be used, and New York law became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Despite being the most populous city in America, public places in New York City are still dominated by cars even though the majority of New Yorkers do not actually own a car.

A 1961 resolution introduced government mandates requiring all new construction in New York City to include a minimum amount of new off-street parking, regardless of whether residents needed it, wanted it, or would even use it. Just as work is underway to undo the other harmful legacies of Moses’ car-centric planning, we need to start addressing the negative consequences that the parking minimum has had for housing affordability, climate, walkable neighborhoods, and more.

Minimum parking makes housing more expensive. Developers are forced to incorporate car spaces into the planning and construction of housing developments — driving up costs, displacing ground-level retail, undermining mass transit and contributing to climate change — in a city where most residents don’t drive.

In a transit-dense city amid a housing crisis, we should not force developers to build parking lots that residents don’t need because of a 60-year-old rule. Minimum parking imposed a National burdened cost of $440 million annually on uninterested renters, penalizing mass transit users and forcing careless families (who tend to be low income) to support car owners. Research has shown that the New York parking minimum inflates rents by as much as 17% – the burning gasoline that’s been New York’s long-running housing crunch, where Homelessness in recent years has reached its highest rate since the Great Depression.

Parking mandates are putting a strain on business in New York. Parking spaces occupy space retailers can use at ground level, limiting opportunities for small, local businesses that are more prized by New Yorkers and already struggling to compete with national chains.

The parking minimum also motivates more people to own and drive cars, making both New Yorkers and the environment less safe. The number of deaths and injuries from traffic accidents in New York has increased, by 44% since last year, Increased vehicle emissions are directly contributing to the climate crisis. Meanwhile, the MTA – the world’s best mass transit system – faces budget deficits and other challenges exacerbated by the pandemic-induced collapse in passenger numbers. Eliminating parking requirements is a great tool to encourage more New Yorkers to return to mass transit.

By design, Moses’ highways undermined the mass transit on which most New Yorkers depended and repeatedly destroyed New York City neighborhoods around them—as in the infamous case of the Cross-Bronx Expressway, when it flooded a freeway straight through existing neighborhoods. But although he succeeded in building dozens of highways, New York did not become a motor city.

Most New Yorkers would like to reallocate street space for other uses. The last poll by Regional Plan Association He explains that New Yorkers believe that 70% of street space should be for bicycles, buses, pedestrians, and other non-automotive uses. Now it’s just the opposite, with 70% of the street space devoted to cars.

The same survey shows that New Yorkers are in favor of more housing, with the lack of affordable housing being the main reason people are considering moving away from New York. Getting rid of old and expensive parking orders is a logical fix that could go a long way toward solving many problems at once, and freeing our city from one of Moses’ most damaging legacy: parking orders.

Lind is the Director of Open Plans Policy. Faris is the political director of Open New York.

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