The Hoboken Parking Authority (HPA) will present a proposal at Wednesday's City Council meeting to narrow residential and business parking regulations. The changes are likely to include significant increases in fees, officials said, but the HPA and the City Council have yet to decide how much.
The rules also will limit residential and business permits to four blocks of the holder's address. As a result, the HPA has not sent out new parking permits because they may want the permits to somehow identify the address to which they apply.
City Council Transportation Subcommittee chairman Ruben Ramos said Thursday that he predicts that the new fee schedule will be finalized by the first council meeting in February. While the final decision on the fees has not been made, the HPA and Transportation Subcommittee have agreed on changes to the actual rules governing business and resident permits. The council is scheduled to introduce an ordinance Wednesday night regarding these rules. If the ordinance passes, a public hearing and final vote would be held Feb. 6.
Changing the rules
The HPA Board of Commissioners is a seven-member volunteer board that sets policy for the autonomous Parking Authority. But resident parking regulations and the fee associated with those permits are controlled under city ordinances, so the HPA does not have the authority to change the rules without getting a City Council vote first. The HPA makes recommendations that the City Council can approve, modify or deny.
At Monday night's HPA meeting, the board announced its renewed efforts to pursue the tightening of the city's resident and business parking regulations. By a vote of five yes votes and one abstention by Commissioner Donald Pellicano, the board passed a resolution to approach the City Council with regulation changes. Commissioner Sharon Ricciardi was absent.
Thursday, the HPA approached the City Council's Transportation Subcommittee with its proposals and together agreed to various changes that must be approved by a vote of the full council.
The most sweeping would be to allocate one side of most Hoboken streets for resident parking only - meaning no business, visitor or temporary out-of-state permits would be allowed. The other side of the street would remain for any type of permit - residential, business, temporary or visitor.
However, in order to protect the business districts, the alternating permit rule would not apply on Bloomfield, Washington and Hudson streets.
"This is something that I feel needs to be done," said Ramos Thursday night. "It will provide more parking for residents, which is direly needed, and because it won't apply to Washington Street and the business district, I don't see those business being severally affected. I see it as a win-win scenario."
Businesses will, however, be affected by a rule that limits them to 15 business parking permits. Currently, there is no limit to how many permits a business can acquire. The permits cost $50 per year and sometimes limit the hours that employees can park.
"[Businesses] definitely shouldn't be putting all of their cars on the street." said HPA Commissioner Dan DeCavaignac. "What if a large company like Wiley and Sons or SJP [scheduled to move into the south waterfront this year] finds that it is more cost effective to buy 300 business permits than to buy extra spaces in the garages? Then all of the sudden you have 300 cars on the street that shouldn't be there."
DeCavaignac added that by limiting the number of permits, businesses wouldn't be able to sell the spots they do have in garages in favor of using street parking.
Some in the business community feel that limiting the number of permits is inequitable. "That is unfair for companies with more 15 employees," said Hoboken Chamber of Commerce President John Parchinsky Friday. "They are using negative tactics to drive business owners and employees in to the garage. I think they would be better served by making parking in the garages more attractive by offering and advertising business discounts and things like that. Plus, there are many businesses in town that aren't in walking distance of a city garage. What are they to do if they can't get as many business permits as they need?"
One new group that will be allowed to receive business permits are out-of-town contractors that are working in town on a project. As long as the contractor's name is on a work order, they will be able to obtain a business permit.
Better park near your house
Both residential and businesses permits will be zoned such that each permit is only valid within a four block radius from the home or business. The Parking Authority will either put the addresses on the permits or include some kind of code to identify the address.
The HPA also plans to tighten up what is required to show proof of residency. Currently, you have to show a lease. With the new rules, one will have to show a valid drivers' license with a Hoboken address; the car designated for a permit must be registered at that Hoboken address, and the applicant must have proof of residency such as a lease.
This will require people moving to Hoboken from out of state to quickly register their cars in Hoboken in order to park here. State laws require such an action anyway, but in the past, some new residents avoided re-registering their cars in New Jersey to avoid higher insurance premiums.
The HPA and the city plan to only allow 45 visitor permits per household per year, and visitor passes will not be extended for more than seven days consecutively.
Currently, for out-of-state plates the HPA sells 60-day permits that are renewable. If the current proposal is approved, the temporary permits will be reduced to 30 days and will not be renewable.
How the mayor will add parking
Mayor Roberts said Thursday that he supports the new rules, but only with the caveat that the city goes forward to find other sources of parking so that businesses are not left out.
"First of all it my intention to create more parking for both residents and businesses," said the mayor. "This will not work if all we do is arbitrarily remove half of the city streets from businesses. We need to be diligent and make sure that this important portion of our community does have parking options."
The mayor announced for the first time Thursday his conceptual plan that he said could yield more than 600 spaces that could be used for business and visitors in the near future. Earlier in the week he met with the several city engineers and discussed the feasibility of making the entire length of Sinatra Drive, and some sections of Willow Avenue, angle parking. "Anywhere in the city where we will have the required easement for the safe flow of traffic, we are going to look to stripe for angle parking," he said. "Just look at the spaces in front of the [Hoboken] Police Station, where there were three spaces before there are now more than 10, simply by making those angled spots. It simple and cost effective way to get more parking."
The mayor also advocates talking with owners of certain buildings north of 14th Street and on the west side of town to let their tiny streets be used for street parking. He said according to city engineers, that could be the source of more than 100 new spaces that could be used.
Those are the mayor's quick solutions. He added that he has plans for a long-term solution. He said he hopes to enter into negotiations with the owners of the Tea Building for the possible acquisition of land next to the Tea Building as a site for a perimeter parking facility.
Other city officials have come out in support of changing some of the city's parking rules.
"It's going to happen, and it needs to," said Ramos referring to the proposed changes. "I believe they are very beneficial to residents and not detrimental to the business community."
Council President Tony Soares said Wednesday that he would support these changes to the regulations if brought before the council. "It's a step in the right direction," he said. "When we ran for election we ran on a platform of overhauling the Parking Authority and making residents the priority when it comes to the city's limited parking spaces. I wholeheartedly support these proposed rules."
Officials say fees will rise soon
Monday, the board skated around the issue of raising fees like a toreador dodging an oncoming bull. They did not directly address the issue of a fee increase, but at Thursday's meeting with the council subcommittee, they revealed that they are considering significant fee increases for business and resident permits.
Currently, businesses in Jersey City pay $250 per business permit, and that is what the Hoboken Parking Authority commissioners pitched to the Transportation Subcommittee Thursday. However, that amount is likely to decline. Hoboken merchants now only pay only $50 per pass.
Officials also discussed at Thursday's meeting raising resident parking permit fees from $5 to $35. That issue will also remain under discussion. Visitor passes may increase from $1 to $5.
Ramos said that the Transportation Subcommittee thought that the proposed rate changes presented by the HPA were extreme, but did say Thursday night that the fees do need to go up.
"We're going to hold off for now from changing fee schedule," said Ramos Thursday night. "How much to increase rates is a real stickler. It has to happen, but we have to compromise with the HPA about the right amount to raise those prices. $250 for business permits and $35 for resident permits seemed a bit high to me. We have a couple meetings scheduled for the next couple weeks, and I would be very surprised if we don't have a resolution and a figure that both sides can agree to by the Feb. 6 City Council meeting."
Mayor Roberts said Thursday that he believes raising fees is an important process that must be completed with due diligence. "I personally recommend creating more parking before raising the fees," said Roberts. "But I do understand that resident fees have been $5 since their inception and do need to come up. I'm not sure what the correct level is to raise prices, but the council and myself are listening to the recommendations of the HPA and will negotiate with them in a reasonable and fair manner. This must be done smartly, we must take our time to make sure that we do not rush to a decision that is unfounded and unfair."
When it comes to raising prices on business permits, Roberts said that Hoboken should look to its neighbors for guidelines. "I have to say, looking at neighbors' fees for businesses it makes sense to raise those prices to come in line with our neighbors," said Roberts. "I believe that bringing those permits between $150 and $250 is defendable."
Similarly, the city's business administrator and the administration's liaison to the Parking Authority, Laurie Cotter, concluded Thursday that fees do need to go up but recognized that because the city has not changed rates in so long there might be some resistance.
"It's entirely possible that the final outcome will fall somewhere in between," Cotter said. "It's unfortunate that the rates haven't been raised for so long. Now any reasonable change is it is going appear extreme because they have been the same for so long."
Both the mayor and the council said during the week that they key to any new rule changes or fee increases comes down to enforcement. "We need to proceed with caution when considering raising fees, but none of that matters unless we enact a very aggressive enforcement campaign," Roberts said. "That is really the key to the entire thing."
Council President Soares agreed with the mayor wholeheartedly on the point of enforcement. "Enforcement is the real key," said Soares. "We can make as many rules as we want, but if they aren't enforced they are meaningless. We need to make sure that whatever the council agrees upon is enforced unilaterally throughout the city."
Meanwhile, the Parking Authority and the city also are still in discussions about the city's request for the Parking Authority to pay them $2 million this year. The money has already been included as a revenue item in the current municipal budget.
The next council meeting will be held this Wednesday at 7 p.m. on the first floor of City Hall at Newark and Washington streets. All members of the public may attend.