Parks and Rides: A Horizontal Skyscraper — Design Proposal Ronkonkoma, NY

Manhattan Transfer

Ronkonkoma Station is the center of a town that never was, designated as such at a time when New York City was dispersing into its suburbs. Now that the polarity has reversed, the opportunity exists to insert a slice of Manhattan’s energy, density, and intensity into Long Island at the intersection of its planes (MacArthur/Islip Airport), trains (Long Island Rail Road) and automobiles (the Long Island Expressway). All it takes is a parking lot the size of the Empire State Building laid on its side—but more on that in a minute.

Where Park-and-Ride Becomes Parks-and-Rides

Park-and-ride lots like Ronkonkoma’s are one of two things—jammed or empty. On weekdays, the free lot is jammed with vehicles of absent commuters; at nights and on weekends, the lot is empty. Instead of arriving at 6:21PM to a sea of emptying spaces, what if you could pick up dinner on your way to the car at a Whole Foods or farmers’ market, hit the bike track, meet a friend for a drink, catch a movie on the lawn or pick up the kids from soccer practice—practically cutting your real commute home in half?

The Design

The new Ronkonkoma Station is half-garage, half-Manhattan, with 750 more spaces than the asphalt it replaces. But instead of mimicking the city—with storefronts at street level, housing above, and parking below—the station is composed of alternating “wafers” of parking and tenant floors linked by ramps and escalators stitching the checkered uses flanking them on every floor.

The result produces a pair of gigantic open spaces, one a “park” and one for “rides.” The outdoor “rides” space shelters the train platform and airport shuttle stop with the parking structure, recalling the vaulted ceiling of the original Penn Station. Its counterpart—the “park—is indoors, containing soccer fields, a hockey rink, mini-golf and a driving range, a go-cart track, and a cricket field stadium on its south flank, with seating for 9,000 spectators.

The Airport

Immediately to the south of Ronkonkoma Station is MacArthur Airport, which literally turned its back on the station by placing the passenger terminal on the opposite side of the airfield rather than adjacent to the train. The absence of a seamless link between the two is a wasted opportunity, as both fail to leverage the passenger traffic of the other. The new station is poised to remedy this with surplus parking to accommodate a terminal annex in the future, along with light industrial and distribution space for the airport’s commercial tenants.

Only upon landing or taking off from MacArthur does the true shape of the station reveal itself, recalling the Empire State Building at rest—fitting, as Long Island is where a large chunk of Manhattan goes to sleep.

Key Facts

  • Current surface parking spaces: 3,661
  • Proposed structured parking spaces: 4,411
  • Net new parking spaces: 750 for standard cars, 322 for non-emissions vehicles (NEVs)
  • PLUS uses: food market, convenience retail, restaurants, hotel, motel, gym, theater, conference center, co-working space, art/wine storage, industrial/distribution warehousing, soccer fields, cricket stadium, amphitheater/open-air cinema, driving range, mini-golf, go-cart track, skating/roller rink, batting cages, bocce/horseshoes/shuffleboard and blimp port.
  • Future PLUS use: airport terminal, for private and charter jets
  • 1,745,735 sq. ft. of new construction on 6 levels
  • Total leasable area: 906,000 sq. ft.

Economic Impacts (from parking consultant Gerard Giosa)

  • Creates a Destination; takes advantage of vacant commuter parking spaces; multi modal
  • Ambitious concept can support over $130 million in new investment
  • First phase (without the airport terminal) can create over 500 permanent jobs
  • Commercial uses can generate over $7.5 million per year in new tax revenue
  • Potential to become a significant regional destination attracting millions in new spending from many miles away

Project Credits

Roger Sherman Architecture + Urban Design
Roger Sherman, Project Team Leader
Team: Hector Campagna, Mo Harmon, Quyen Luong, Alex Maymind, Harut Nazaryan, and Jeff Rauch
MR+E, Market Analysis
Greg Lindsay, TOD Programming
Kati Rubinyi, Mobility Consulting
Nicholas Lowie, Graphic Design/Layout
Colleen Corcoran, Graphic Design /Website

More about Ronkonkoma Parks and Rides

Download the PDF (15MB) that shows all the details about this design.

Read a Q&A with Roger Sherman of RSAUD.

Watch a video of Roger Sherman unveiling the design.

Read a webpaper from the future imagining what Parks and Rides means to the community.

More about ParkingPLUS

Find out about the potential economic benefits of the ParkingPLUS designs.

Read about how to finance parking garages, and why it pays to build them in downtown and train station areas.

Learn more about the ParkingPLUS design challenge.