After a firestorm of public debate and political banter, the Hoboken City Council finally passed an ordinance Wednesday night that overhaul's the town's resident parking program.
It took four months for members of the council's Transportation Sub-Committee and commissioners from the Hoboken Parking Authority (HPA) to write, re-write, tinker with and agree on the rules and regulations that govern where residents, local merchants and their employees and visitors can park in the Mile-Square City.
The ordinance passed by a 6-1 margin Wednesday night, with only Councilwoman Theresa Castellano voting in the negative. By law there is a 20-day period after an ordinance passes before it becomes an enforceable law.
What are the changes?
The biggest change, according to the ordinance, is that effective 24 hours a day, seven days a week on all city streets - except on announced holidays and except in areas covered by metered parking - one side of every street will be designated "Resident Permit Parking Only." No visitor, business, or temporary passes will be accepted and there will be no grace period.
Cars will be ticketed immediately if they do not have a residential sticker. In areas marked "Permit Parking Only," resident, visitor, business and temporary permits are allowed and there will be a four-hour grace period for cars without any permits.
Another major change in policy is that the HPA is going back to booting cars that are violating residential parking regulations. According to officials from the HPA, a car will be ticketed and booted immediately once it is found to be in violation. There will be a $100 fee to remove the boot. If a car goes unclaimed for more than 48 hours, the HPA will tow the car, and the owner will have to pay fees associated with the towing.
Booting will not begin until the ordinance goes into effect in 20 days.
The city will be responsible for proper signage marking the resident parking program changes and the locations of the "Resident Parking Only" areas. According to city officials, the city will place signs in the applicable locations before the HPA begins enforcing the new regulations.
Also tightened are the acceptable forms of proof of residency to get a resident parking pass. According to the ordinance, the following are acceptable proof of residency for the owner of vehicle: a copy of a valid New Jersey drivers' license reflecting an address in the city of Hoboken, a copy of a valid New Jersey motor vehicle registration showing an address in the city of Hoboken, and a copy of a valid auto insurance card showing an address in the city of Hoboken.
If the vehicle is leased and used by a resident, a copy of the valid New Jersey motor vehicle registration, valid insurance showing an address in the city of Hoboken, and a copy of the lease reflecting the applicant's address in Hoboken need to be presented to the HPA.
Also upon application to the HPA, a resident parking permit may be issued to a legal Hoboken resident for use on a company-owned vehicle notwithstanding the state registration of the car.
When it comes to business permits, the council intends to limit each business establishment to no more than 20 valid business permits. There is a provision by which the HPA has the right to grant extra business permits in special circumstances.
Business permits will be valid everywhere in the city except in the areas marked "Resident Permit Parking Only."
Still might need tweaking?
At Wednesday night's public hearing, a handful of residents approached the microphone with individual situations that are not fully addressed in the new ordinance. One such person was Myra Kasser of 13th Street, who does not own a car but often rents one so that her and her husband can help organize local Boy Scout events. As the ordinance is written, Kasser will be allowed to purchase a temporary permit for $1 per day that she can use for a rental car. She said that in any given year, she might rent a car as many as 75 days a year, costing her up to $75 in temporary permits.
"I own my house, I pay a large quantity of taxes, and I don't own a car," said Kasser. "I'm part of the solution by not owning a car and only renting one occasionally, but I'm being treated worse the someone who does own a car and parks it on the street year 'round for only $10."
Kasser suggested that the city provide for $10 a placard for those residents that do not own a car but rent a car occasionally. But the city's corporation counsel, Esther Suarez, said that this might not be feasible because giving out placards would be a way to facilitate fraud. According to her, any resident who has out-of-state plates and might not be eligible for a permit otherwise could say they only occasionally rent a car but in reality use it on their car permanently. While there were several suggestions on how to solve Kasser's problem, the issue was left unresolved Wednesday.
"We have to make an ordinance that works for the greatest number of people," said Councilman A. Nino Giacchi, a member of the council's Transportation Sub-Committee. "When you allow loopholes, you only create an opportunity for fraud. We can always revisit this in the future, but I really feel we have to get something done now."
He added that the ordinance can be revised or changed if something is found not to be working.
Another issue that might need some revision in the future was brought up by Hoboken resident Lucile Haack. She suggested that it is difficult for seniors to go down to City Hall every time they have a visitor, and it is also an unfair financial burden for a senior to pay $3-a-day to have a guest. "Give the seniors a pass," said Haack. "For them to have to pay to have a visitor is just absurd."
2nd Ward Councilman Richard Del Boccio agreed with Haack and said it was something that the City Council should look into. "I am an advocate that senior citizens should not have to go down to City Hall to get a pass for every visitor," said Del Boccio. He added that the council will consider in the future the possibility to giving a $10 pass to senior citizens that they can use for visitors.
Even though there might be some minor exceptions to the program that need to be cleared up in the future, Council President Tony Soares said that now it the time to pass this ordinance.
"The most common complaint from Hoboken residents is that there's nowhere to park," said Soares during the public hearing. "We need to do something to rectify that situation. We can always add revisions if something is not working, but we have to go forward with this tonight."
Only 1st Ward Councilwoman Theresa Castellano voted against the ordinance.
"The feeling that I get from it is that it is restrictive and overbearing," said Castellano right before the vote was taken. She said the HPA and the city would be better served by taking advantage of an underutilized Park and Shop Program. She also criticized the HPA for raising the rates in the city's garages when one of the expressed reasons for changing the resident parking regulations is to make parking in the garages more attractive.