NYC Considers Zoning Text Amendments for Automated Parking Facilities

Land Use

Automated parking facilities, which are common in Europe and Asia, use robotic technology to park cars in computerized racks without any human interface.  These parking facilities do not require ramps, can hold many more cars than conventional attendant parking facilities, are more efficiently run since cars are retrieved quicker, and eliminate accidents, dents, and dings which are common-place in attendant parking facilities where humans park cars.  In addition, theft and vandalism are eliminated since cars are not accessible to the public.  With automated parking facilities, there is also no idling of engines found within typical attendant parking facilities so the environmental nuisance of exhaust fumes and noise are eliminated.  A few of these garages, in fact, presently exist in New York City.

New York City has begun to recognize the benefit of automated parking facilities and the likelihood that more and more of these automated parking facilities will be proposed in Manhattan.  Accordingly, the Department of City Planning (“DCP”) has proposed adding new text to the parking regulations for the Manhattan Core (south of 110th Street on the west side and 96th Street on the east side) under Article I, Chapter 3, of the New York City Zoning Resolution, in connection with automated parking facilities.

According to the Department of City Planning’s website, “These provisions would encourage the development of automated facilities, which are a more efficient use of space and have environmental benefits over conventional attended garages.”  Under the new provisions, the Commissioner of the Department of Buildings would be given authority to determine capacity and the number of reservoir spaces needed case by case, based on the operational characteristics of the specific automated parking facility. According to DCP, this flexibility is needed as each automated parking facility is custom-designed for the site and the technology for this type of facility is evolving.

Among other things, as proposed, the new regulations would allow an increase in the floor area waiver to 40 feet for automated parking facilities (a waiver to a height of 23 feet is already permitted for conventional garages) by certification of the Chair of DCP, provided that: (i) there is floor area above the garage (there has to be another use and not just a stand-alone garage); (ii) the first story must be wrapped by another use to a depth of 30’; and (iii) the façade up to 40’ is consistent with the rest of the building’s façade.

It seems clear that NYC is attempting to be at the forefront of this new technology, and recognizes its importance as space becomes more and more limited throughout Manhattan.

In addition, this technology presents the same benefits such as efficient use of space, and protection of the environment whether in Manhattan or at a retail center on Long Island.  It will be interesting to see whether this technology is eventually employed in suburban areas as well, such as on Long Island.  While this may be cost prohibitive today, regulations that encourage its use coupled with a natural evolution to newer and cheaper technology may bring these facilities to more and more suburban areas in the future.  Instead of asphalt parking lots around new retail centers and hotels on Long Island, these automated parking facilities may be incorporated into these new structures.

For more information on the Manhattan Core Text Amendment, please follow this link.


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