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Parking: More than bad timing – it’s bad planning, too

As many of you may have noticed, the rear lot behind the theater is being torn up and there will be disruptions and confusion for a while. The improvement is to add about 60 spaces (from recollection) and will add needed parking inventory. The thing to remember about this project is that it costs about $700K, some of which is being used to redesign a bus stop at the rear of the theater, which is maybe $200K of the price, leaving about $500K for the actual parking. Better is better than not better, but it is not as good as the best.The best in this instance would have been an improvement that was planned and justified on a 20- or 30-year time frame, which could have included possible expansions to meet future parking needs upward, with a parking deck.

The deck would not have to be built now, but the design could have been RFP’d to included foundations in the new construction for future expansion. That would have required touching the third rail in Nyack politics, even if the issue was only scheduled for 10 years down the road.

This particular project is one of the last vestiges of the legacy of the Nyack Parking Authority, which put forward the project to show that it was doing something, when there was demand for more parking. Here the something was a costly improvement that will no doubt prevent significant changes in the parking structures for a decade or so, regardless of what emerges as to new parking needs.

Your Village Board probably deserves some leeway for being led down this path by the NPA but not too much.

This is the public loss from the fiasco in the public discussions about parking in the last year or so, which I have tried to chronicle.

Let’s go to the munimeters. I have an interesting anecdote to offer. I was in the Palmier wine store, and a woman who had several hundred dollars of Chamber cheques that she wanted the store to just cash out totally, ie. have the store pay her 100% of the cash value.

What was the reason. She is never coming to shop in Nyack again, because she is fed up with the parking and particularly with the munimeters. She dislikes the trek back and forth; she dislikes being ripped off by not getting change, and, most intensely, she is annoyed by what she calls the “double dip” which she sees happening when she puts in a $1 bill and leaves shortly thereafter, and the next car pays for the same space again or again.

What does this tell you. A New City or Nanuet resident who was invested enough in the Village that she bought the Chamber cheques, says she will not be coming back.

Not good.

And look at that permanent cost. At least $64,000 a year, or $640,000 over ten years, to replace machines that worked. The ability of the Village to pay for the $100K promise to fund a street improvements bond is impaired. I went to the Village Board budget meetings, at which the VB could not come up with $10,000 to $15,000 (I forget the exact number) for the excellent programs at the Nyack Center, but we can shuck out $64K for top end munimeters, that most people do not really like, and that the Village never really needed to buy.

Check that out for rational priorities at Village Hall.

Third, the Village Board passed an increase in parking fees to $25 per violation (which can be reduced to $15 if paid in 48 hours). The budget has a shortfall and one of the few places to squeeze more money is parking fines.

The representation was made in the Board that these rates are comparable with other Rockland villages, which I am told (but have not researched) is not so. I protested this at the Board meeting, on the grounds that parking fines should not be regarded as a free fire zone, just because the people paying tickets may be from out of Nyack and thus not voters or property owners. So far, that argument has not been heard. Fines are now $25.

Next big issue in parking. When the zoning law comes up for revision this summer sometime, there should be an effort to eliminate the parking requirements applied to commercial uses in the downtown district. They are not rational but relate only to fictitious “virtual” parking spaces only (which is a theme that can be elaborated later).

For this short summary, I just want to point out a Catch 22 in the current scheme of things. We are told that the parking needs of the Village will be reviewed every two years, but we have a zoning code which essentially prohibits full or optimal use of downtown properties, because of the fictitious “grandfather” limitations on uses.

[HINT: The parking law does not regulate parking; it only freezes uses, and is not a parking regulation in any event.]

If that limitation was eliminated and improvements were made in buildings as the market allowed by property owners, to upgrade uses, you would see uptick in parking need, to match that which is not noticed today (such as the need of downtown residents to find a place to park).

If that parking need was allowed to come into being, the need to satisfy it could also be documented and met.

Thus, if the virtual parking laws and their fictitious idea of grandfathered spaces were dumped, you might get to see what people really want to do in the commercial district.

And then, you respond rationally to that demand.. if you have a village government that endorses rational actions.

There is more coming, so watch and wait and see.

Joseph Adams

Nyack People & Places, a weekly series that features photos and profiles of citizens and scenes near Nyack, NY, is sponsored by Sun River Health.

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