Not in My Front Yard?

The Department of City Planning has chosen a side in the so-called Paving Wars by proposing a zoning change that would require planting on 20 to 50 percent of most front yards, thus stopping home owners from coating those spaces with concrete and creating parking spaces. The green front yard contributes to community and quality of life, says planning director Amanda Burden, who believes that paving yards is creating a cement jungle in these beautiful neighborhoods. The proposal will need to get a thumbs-up from the Planning Commission and the City Council in order to become a regulation. We’re not sure about the requirement of 50 percent plant coverage, but we certainly like the gist of the proposal. How ’bout you?

One More Skirmish in the Paving Wars [NY Times]

0 Comment

  • this driveway in the picture on the left has been there for about 10-15 yrs. i do not remember the one on the right
    find a newer example

  • there would be alot of angry voters in working class areas. that depended on their cars to get to work or work for that matter. mostly these paved cement front yards are in working class areas.

  • I love to garden. But older homeowners and property managers of multi-family homes might find it difficult to keep up with the maintenance required for a garden. So this new proposal seems really unfair in a lot of ways. Also layout wise it might be hard to accomplish 50% coverage when you have to incorporate space for trash cans to come in and out and be stored, hatch to basement to be opened and closed and have access to on ocassion, and have a walkway for access to garden floor apts.

  • 50% is really high (and I am sympathetic to the spirit of this reg). there must be a better way to achieve the same desired result.

  • Im never in favor of legislation based on arbitrary personal taste.

    Why not just enforce illegal driveways rather than force the majority of rule abiding homeowners to do something they dont want to do it?

    We live with enough bureaucracy , illogical building codes and laws without adding another.

  • new yorkers can be so utterly tasteless

  • How do you turn your yard into a driveway?….does it require planning permission?….or are most yards with parking space illegal?….

  • 11:06, ur supposed to get permission, but i think it gets done illegally in many areas

    i think its a disguisting practice

  • If you want to police illegal parking and curb cuts, police illegal parking and curb cuts.

    I personally have a front garden and hate paved over gardens. I also realize that things should not be outlawed simply because I disapprove of them.

    But I realize that’s a minority position in America, among liberals and conservatives alike.

  • part of the reason that this is so hideous, is that IMHO most automibiles are so ugly.

    imagine if every car was a nice black 1940’s style…we wouldn’t mind it as much (i know i wouldn’t)

  • paved over gardens arent always so bad..especially if one uses pavers, some potted plants, a bench, etc

    its the freakin curb cuts and cars (many times SUV’s, surprise surprise) that piss me offf…just makes it easier for people to drive everywhere, own more than one car, and contribute to this addiction to cars and oil

  • I agree with Mrs. Limestone. The issue is creating parking spaces and curb cuts illegally … not how a front yard (or “area way”) is landscaped. Curb cuts require a permit. See:

  • The other issues they city might be caring about here are global warming + sewage. More green space = a cooler planet. Also the way the city’s ancient sewage system works is that runoff from concrete all goes in to the same sewage system. So if there’s less pavement then our overtaxed sewers will get a bit of a break. But the quotes from Amanda Burden above do seem only to be ones of aesthetics. I would guess if they passed a law like this and then the sewers backup because of all the supersized development approved in Brooklyn then the city can blame the individual homeowners and not their careless planning. But that’s just me. A cynic.

  • I hate cement in front and cement in back both. It’s utterly lacking in taste. Or logic. It makes the street noise inside a home much worse. Grass and trees absorb noise, cement amplifies it.

  • This Amanda Burden is a micromanaging totalitarian. She’s the urban planning-obsessed dork who read A Pattern Language one too many times, but happened to be blue-blooded enough to actually get into power.

    Concrete yards are ugly, yes, but so are many gardens. Some people just have abominable taste, and unless Ms. Burden is going to start showing up and personally planning people’s gardens and paved areas so that they are more legally stylish (haha), this should be dropped.

  • Aesthetics aside, for every curb cut/driveway that’s created, that equals one less parking spot at the curb for everyone else.

  • to guest@4:05: maybe, but it creates *at least one* parking spot for the owner of the property.

    Bullshit reasons involving aesthetics notwithstanding, a compromise can easily be worked out here that allows people to have the parking spots that they in essence paid for when they bought their space. The space in front of your garage isn’t the only space on the land where plants or grass or whathaveyou can be planted. I really do think this is all a matter of taste. An embarrasing one at that.

  • Um, under what stretch of the law have people bought the street parking in front of their home when they buy their home? It is a public street. My understanding is that in many cases the city owns an easement over the front yards of many townhouses. Given the aesthetic/runoff/privitiation of streets implications of allowing home owners to pave their front yards, it does not seem unreasonable to me to restrict the use in this way.

  • “Aesthetics aside, for every curb cut/driveway that’s created, that equals one less parking spot at the curb for everyone else.”

    This is the key point: a curb cut privatizes public space, as only the owner can now park where the curb cut is.

    If were going to allow parking in front yards, maybe the curb cuts should be purchased like any other easement.

    Personally I’m all for this zoning change — it strikes me as a quality of life issue with no downside for most city people and manageable downside for owners.

  • It seems bizarre to posit that maintaining a front lawn or garden is an excessive “burden” and that paved-over parking pads are a “right” when it has been a shared civic assumption for at least a century that urban streetscapes are defined by front yards on private property, not “parking lots” (beyond the original design of a single driveway in later non-row-house blocks with garages). We have had working-class people and old people in party-wall houses for decades, and we’ve had street crime just as long, and yet only since the Attack of the Urban Hummer Lifestyle (i.e. Everybody Needs Lots of Cars)have folks suddenly begun parking en masse on their erstwhile front lawns. It is worth noting that many of these pads are paved over as RENTAL parking spots; we are incessantly queried as to whether or not we’d be willing to pave over a chunk of our property to accommodate some loony contractor’s panel van or the car of a teacher at a nearby school. Many neighbors stuff their backyards with numerous cars not their own, just as they are willing to stuff their basements with illegal tenants to turn a fast buck.
    That said, it seems we should be able to stamp out a lot of this just by rigorous enforcement of current curb cut regs…but having seen what “rigorous enforcement” currently entails (zilch) with regard to some flagrant multi-curb-cutters on my own block, I don’t hold out much hope for that.
    How about a “campaign of shame” similar to the neon-stickers they slapped on cars that blocked street cleaning for awhile? Maybe a fluourescent stencil on their sidewalk, “Urban Landscape Violator”?