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As city prepares for electric vehicle charging stations, communities diverge on support

June 28, 2019 Meaghan McGoldrick
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A plan to replace 120 parking spaces with curbside electric car charging stations is facing opposition from Brooklyn community boards, with some calling it a “vanity project” while others embrace it as progressive policy.

The New York City Department of Transportation will begin installing the charging ports at parking spaces across the five boroughs this fall. The agency hopes the stations will encourage New Yorkers to buy more electric vehicles, eventually reducing the city’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Ports will take the place of pre-existing parking spots, DOT said. Once functional, e-vehicle owners will have to pay per-hour of charging. Any drivers who park non-electric cars there will be fined $115 and potentially towed.

The agency is currently seeking public input on the project, which is being funded by Con Edison (which also has a say in where the ports will go). The DOT’s website says revenue is expected to cover only a fraction of the project’s cost, but if it expands in the future it could be “revenue positive.” The project page does not say whether the city or Con Edison, or both, will receive the revenue.

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By now, presentations on the ports have made their way to Brooklyn boards 3, 6, 7, 10 and 16. Bronx boards 8 and 7 and Queens board 12 have also been briefed on the proposal. According to a DOT spokesperson, stations are not limited to these neighborhoods; rather these are the only boards that requested a presentation.

Community Board 10 — which spans Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights — voted as a full board on the proposal at its June 17 general meeting.

Following a committee visit from DOT in May, the panel voted to recommend that the agency not move forward with the four ports proposed for the district (which already has five charging stations in a municipal lot on Fifth Avenue and 85th Street).

The proposed ports — described as Level 2 chargers — will provide e-vehicles with a full charge in about four to eight hours, depending on the car’s battery size. Level 1 refers to at-home charging, and Level 3 to ports within municipal lots. All ports in the current plan are Level 2.

CB10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann told the Brooklyn Eagle that members of the board’s Traffic and Transportation Committee felt that DOT presented an incomplete proposal, and that reps from the agency weren’t nearly prepared enough to speak about it.

“DOT could not provide us any statistics on the usage of those charging stations,” Beckmann said, referring to those five in the municipal lot. “They told us that information could be obtained by submitting a [Freedom of Information Law] request. We did that, and will not have a response until February 2020.”

Other concerns of the committee included enforcement policies and the “impracticality” of available spaces in an already-tight-on-parking neighborhood.

On Monday, attendees of a Community Board 3 meeting in Bedford-Stuyvesant cited similar concerns.

“I don’t understand how the city is taking it upon themselves to fix a problem that isn’t a problem,” Antero Branco, a Bed-Stuy resident, told the DOT presenters.

Neighbor Terrence Johnson asked if the agency had studied how many e-vehicles were in the community. A DOT presenter responded that they did not know how many were in Bed-Stuy, but that there are about 9,000 in New York City, with the goal to encourage more people to buy electric.

A local resident named Ramses said DOT’s plan sounded like a “vanity project” before asking the roughly 100 people at the board meeting to raise their hand if they owned an electric car. (Not a single hand went up.)

A “Level 3” charging station located near the Office of Emergency Management. Eagle photo by Noah Goldberg

On the other hand, the Transportation and Public Safety Committee of Community Board 6, which covers Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Columbia Waterfront, Gowanus, Park Slope and Red Hook, voted unanimously (with just one abstention) earlier this month in favor of the six stations DOT has slated for them.

“I think the board has a history of being pretty progressive on this and other transportation-related issues, and I would say electric car charging is in line with that,” CB6 District Manager Michael Racioppo told the Eagle.

At Community Board 16’s general meeting on Tuesday night, Deborah Williams, chair of the group’s City Services Committee, told board members about the plan. No one had any questions, and no DOT representative was at the meeting.

CB16 encompasses the neighborhoods of Ocean Hill and Brownsville.

Similarly, Community Board 7 District Manager Jeremy Laufer told the Brooklyn Eagle that the board heard from DOT on the charging stations earlier this month. Because of the summer recess, the panel won’t revisit the plan — which includes a whopping 18 charging ports for the district — until at least September.

CB7 encompasses Sunset Park, Windsor Terrace, Greenwood Heights and South Park Slope. DOT plans to install 10 ports in Sunset, six across Park Slope and Gowanus, and two in Windsor Terrace. It is the highest volume of proposed ports for any board across the city.

A DOT spokesperson said the agency will take community board input on the plan into consideration. Public comment and site location also remains open on DOT’s website.

“We have received some 400 comments so far, and we will be considering input from the portal, as well as CB input, as we select final sites through next month,” the spokesperson said.

Once finalized and installed, ports will be in place for three to four years as part of a “demonstration project.” According to the DOT’s website, “After the demonstration project is completed, NYC DOT will explore different models for expanding curbside charging.”

Additional reporting by Noah Goldberg.

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