The New York Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (NYASLA), an organization of landscape architects in New York City, Long Island and Westchester, has submitted a letter to ESDC CEO Kenneth Adams about the plans for the surface parking lot for Barclays Center patrons on block 1129. NYSLA expresses "dissatisfaction" with the proposed plans, and calls for a more sustainable plan that benefits NYC "through vegetation, shade, a minimized carbon footprint, stormwater management and pervious parking surface materials." The heart of their recommendations is that the lot meet NYC DCP standards, and that it be constructed using green technology.
The group writes that it finds the proposed design "troubling, potentially dangerous to long-term public health, averse to maintaining environmental quality and inconsistent with NYC’s intent to strengthen the economy, combat climate change and enhance quality of life through thoughtful and environmentally beneficial design."
The use of block 1129 for an interim surface parking lot is a contentious piece of the Atlantic Yards plan. In 2009, the Project's plans were changed and the delivery date of the housing and open space on block 1129 was extended to 25 years or more, meaning the surface parking lot could be in place for decades rather than the few years originally intended.
AYW has published an illustration of the lot meeting NYC DCP landscaping standards. It has also published an analysis of how changes to the project in 2009 resulted in FCRC and ESDC locating all of the originally required 1,100 arena patron parking spaces on block 1129 even though the block could not physically accomodate that number of spaces.
NYASLA's letter was submitted during the period of comment for the Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan which includes the plans for both the physical and operational plans of the surface lot. The organization's recommendations build on the proposals in the Neighborhood Protection Plan (NPP) endorsed by City Council Members James, Levin and Lander, as well as State Senator Velmanette Montgomery and Assembly Member Jeffries. The NPP calls for the lot to meet NYC DCP standards designed to mitigate the adverse environmental and aesthetic affects of surface parking lots in New York City. The NYASLA letter, which endorses the Neighborhood Protection Plan, emphasizes in particular concern about the "heat island effect" produced when large areas of asphalt cause consistently higher temperatures in the surrounding areas. The letter also notes that FCRC's proposed plan for the lot will contribute a higher concentrate of carbon dioxide into the air due to the absence of trees that would sequester carbon.
NYASLA's comments include the following:
VEGETATION IN THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT:
- NYASLA recommends that the Department of City Planning Parking Lot Regulations be integrated into the revised designs for the Lot B1129. That will ensure the addition of vegetation and will provide inclusion of green infrastructure systems.
- NYASLA recommends that the planter along the perimeter of the parking lot be extended to 7 feet to be able to include trees and more vegetation diversity. We recommend that FCRC work with local organizations and the Million Trees initiative to create an urban forestry plan that will include an appropriate number of trees both within and along the perimeter of the site as well as the care and maintenance of the trees for the duration of the parking lot.
WATER QUALITY AND CONSERVATION:
- NYASLA recommends that a green infrastructure strategy be created for Lot B1129. The green infrastructure strategy will include a plan for conserving rainwater for irrigation use for the site. The green infrastructure plan will also include rain gardens as part of the planting plan for the interior and perimeter of the lot.
- In addition to the recommendations above that address environmental sustainability, NYASLA recommends that FCRC work closely with the adjacent neighborhood organizations and with local city officials to facilitate the programming of events that can be accommodated within the parking lot. Events could include farmer’s markets, street fairs, performances, a cycle track, etc.
NYSLA argues that Forest City Ratner's proposed plans for the interim lot are out of step with the Bloomberg administration's policies. They note that in 2007, one year after Atlantic Yards was initially approved, Mayor Bloomberg created PlaNYC, part of which includes the NYC DCP's Design Standards for Commercial and Community Parking Lots, which the Barclays Center patron surface parking lot does not meet. In addition, in 2010 NYC DEP released the NYC Green Infrastructure Plan, NYC DPR released the High Performance Landscape Guidelines for 21st Century Parks for NYC, and the Mayor's Office in collaboration with the Departments of Design and Construction, Health and Mental Hygiene, Transportation; and the Department of City Planning published Active Design Guidelines: Promoting Physical Activity and Health in Design. NYSLA writes:
The proposed design for Lot B1129 completely disregards any of the recommendations, standards, and guidelines outlined in these texts. As one of the major projects underway in our city at this time, overseen by a public agency, this should be an example of how to do this right, rather than an exception to the agreed-upon initiatives. Our city has made great strides towards making decisions that are better for our communities and our environment. It is unacceptable that a project as large as this parking lot ignores the smart, strategic recommendations of these plans. Through the creation of the Barclays Center Neighborhood Protection Plan (NPP) along with continued consultation with local residents, workers, and organizations such as NYASLA, we believe a new design can be created that meets the FCRC needs for arena parking and contributes to a greener and better New York City.