Real Estate Weekly
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Construction & Design

Securing a Special Parking Permit for Manhattan residential developers

By Amir Rizavi and Noah Bernstein, VHB

When parking is at a premium, every space counts. According to the Manhattan Core Public Parking Study published by the New York City Department of City Planning in 2011, while off-street parking in the Manhattan Central Business District has become less critical over time thanks to a shift from vehicular- to transit-based travel, “it still plays an important role in supporting economic activity and provides a necessary amenity for residential neighborhoods.”

The supply of off-street parking in the Manhattan Core, however, has declined by about 20 percent since new parking regulations were enacted over three decades ago.

In 2013, the City Council adopted the Manhattan Core Text Amendment in response to the Manhattan Core Public Parking Study.


A Special Parking Permit is required from the City Planning Commission for proposed parking space increases beyond what is permissible as-of-right for residential developments in Community Districts 1 to 8, which represents the Manhattan Core.

According to Section 13-451 of the City’s Zoning Resolution, “the applicant must show that the proposed number of off-street parking spaces is reasonable and not excessive in relation to recent trends in close proximity to the proposed development.”

The Commission is also empowered to “prescribe appropriate conditions and safeguards to minimize adverse effects on the character of the surrounding area.”

The trends referenced above speak to increases in the number of dwelling units and the number of parking spaces built or eliminated, and whether the number of parking spaces exceeds the ratios that would be applied for an as-of-right facility.

Determining the residential growth parking ratio is a critical step in securing approval of a Special Parking Permit. The ratio is computed by dividing the change in the number of parking spaces by the change in the number of residential units during the study period, which covers ten years prior to the application filing. This ten-year look-back includes expected changes through the build year of the proposed development.

Existing parking and residential data collected by the Department of Buildings and Department of Consumer Affairs is usually provided to the development team by the Department of City Planning.


Additional information can be collected by researching recent special permits, Department of Buildings building permits, and Certificates of Occupancy, and conducting field visits to verify that all residential parking and residential unit change sites in the study area were accounted for.

These data sets will inform the analysis of residential trends and off-street parking availability in the study area—generally a third-of-a-mile radius from the development site. By researching Certificates of Occupancy and performing field and historical aerial photograph verifications, one could determine the number of removable “change sites” applicable to the Special Parking Permit.

In accordance with the city’s Special Permit Application Guidelines, residential parking change sites indicate “the net change in the number of parking spaces in Department of Consumer Affairs-licensed parking facilities and accessory parking spaces in residential buildings without a Department of Consumer Affairs license within the study area.” Residential unit change sites indicate “the net change in residential units at all locations within the study area.”

When applying for the Special Parking Permit, applicants must demonstrate the proposed parking facility adheres to enclosure and screening requirements; curb cut restrictions; reservoir space requirements; pedestrian safety and access requirements; and minimum and maximum size of facility provisions.

Should the analysis identify no appreciable difference in the overall residential parking growth ratio with the project than without, and it would be reasonable and in line with recent development trends in the surrounding area to build additional parking spaces beyond that permitted as-of-right, then these reasons could serve as the basis for approval of the Special Parking Permit.

The Department of City Planning has developed the detailed methodology described above based on current and historical parking information, and also on recent and projected trends in parking and residential development.

This methodology is a relatively recent development and, after the guidelines have been developed, approximately ten applications have either been approved or are currently under review by the City Planning Commission. It will take several years to realistically determine whether this approach will help maintain the balance between the growth in residential development and the growth in parking within the Manhattan Core.

The Department of City Planning has spent a great deal of effort in formulating this well thought out methodology to manage parking growth within the Manhattan Core, and hopefully this process moves things in the right direction for the City, its residents, and for real estate developers.

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