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Boro Board backs restrictions on front yard parking

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The Queens Borough Board voted unanimously Monday night to support changes to city streetscape zoning regulations proposed by the Department of City Planning.

If adopted, the changes would effectively rewrite the rules that govern where, when and how parking is allowed in front of homes, barring practices such as putting cars in front yards that have irked community leaders, environmentalists and preservationists for years.

But the board’s vote is only a recommendation to the Planning Commission, which will consider and vote on the rules at a later date.

The changes, which were made stricter after the city’s five borough boards reviewed them last year, would prohibit a variety of parking scenarios, but would not apply retroactively to mandate changes to parking areas built before the new rules go into effect.

“What this proposal is doing to the existing front yard standards is it introduces new design requiremen­ts,” said Parul Agarwala, a planner with the DCP’s zoning division.

According to the DCP, the proposal, if passed, would:

• Prohibit parking in front yards in single- and two-family districts. Parking in these areas would only be allowed in driveways extended into side yards or for semi-detached houses leading into garages in the front of the house.

• Eliminate loopholes in front-yard planting requirements that allow the minimum percentage of a front yard that must be planted to include planting strips less than 1-foot wide and plantings in driveways.

• Reinforce the prohibition on curb cuts for all buildings on lots less than 40 feet wide in rowhouse districts.

• Introduce curb cut rules for residential parking spaces in medium- and higher-density residential and commercial districts, preventing continuous curb cuts that are unsightly, create pedestrian or vehicular conflicts, eliminate on-street parking spaces or reduce retail continuity in commercial districts.

• Ban the use of unlimited curb cuts to access parking lots or garages with multiple spaces, allowing just one or two cuts to many of these locations.

• Ensure that a new parking space is provided for each new dwelling unit added to existing residential buildings in certain multiple-dwelling districts.

• Ensure that parking that would be required today cannot be eliminated for apartment buildings built prior to 1961.

After voting in favor of the proposal, City Councilman Peter Koo (R-Flushing), who represents downtown Flushing, an area with severe parking problems, said it would help alleviate future parking issues before they arise.

“It’s good because we don’t want homeowners to take over all the parking spaces, because then people can’t park in the street. If you have friends over, it’s hard sometimes for them to find parking,” he said. “And parking in people’s yards is no good.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

Updated 5:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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