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Free Thurs Parking To Cost Village $11,000+

by Dave Zornow

Nyack merchants’ initiative to provide free parking on Thursdays nights will cost the village over $11,000 in lost parking revenues in 2009, according to a NyackNewsAndViews analysis of parking data. On July 9th the Nyack Village Board approved free parking on Thursdays from 6p to 9p beginning on July 16 and continuing through the end of the year.

Mayor John Shields told the Journal News that he estimated Nyack would forfeit about $2000-3000 in parking fees. But using a revised average of $482 for Thursdays from 6p-9p, the estimate for just the summer months alone is $3500. Using seasonally adjusted estimates for September-December, the total projected revenue lost to this program is $11,100.

It’s a sensitive issue for Nyack property owners who saw taxes increase 9.4% to cover a 2009-10 budget gap caused by a weak economy. Board members Denise Hogan, Marie Lorenzini and Louise Parker joined Shields voting to approve the program with Richard Kavesh voting against.

“The village cannot afford to give up needed revenue,” says Hogan, who is also a candidate for mayor. “I don’t think people are racing to Nyack because of three hours of free parking.  But I do think the gesture from most of the board builds relationships with downtown and the residents,” she says.

Business owner Marianne Olive defends the program. “Parking problem is the #1 problem according to everyone.” Olive, who is also running for mayor, says she has heard “thousands of complaints” about the village including comments about the Muni-Meters being inconvenient, complicated or broken. “Many complain about the parking meters going till 9pm…and the unfriendly parking authority,” she says. Olive has also advocated building a new parking garage in Nyack estimated to cost between $8 and $30 million.

Revenue losses for the summer would have been greater, however, shoppers continued to put money in the meters due to confusion, mis-trust or poor marketing of the program. Merchants had promised the board they would aggressively promote the initiative when it was passed on July 9th. However, the village pocketed $875 from July 16 through August 13 from revenue earned during free hours. After August 20, parking revenues on Thursday nights disappeared.

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Despite the widespread belief that parking fees have hurt Nyack’s merchants, week by week Tues-Thurs parking revenues have increased since May. People may not be buying, but they continue to shop and park in Nyack on weekday nights.

“Parking is a public asset and should not be simply used as a marketing gimmick,” says Nyack resident JC Brotherhood. “We already have a free parking holiday season. This usually results in very limited parking because some among us will monopolize all the prime spaces, for days or weeks.”

Although merchants and shoppers see parking as a money grab by a cash strapped village, officials say parking rates were raised in response to a well-regarded 2007 Nyack Parking Study. “The increase in meter rates was to encourage turn over parking,” says Hogan. “This increase came at a time when downtown business was declining so the increase did not have the expected result.  We raised meters from 25 to 50 and then to 75 in a relatively short time,” she says. “Certainly free parking is not the answer, [but] maybe better signage and some positive PR will improve our parking meter image.”

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