As a frustrated 15-year Hoboken resident (and car owner), it is dismaying to hear about the problems that have stalled the greatly-hyped automated parking garage long promised to uptown residents. Since its planned inception I was immediately skeptical that such an ambitious and complicated system could ever work here, but I was hopeful that this might be the kind of idea that could help relieve the overburdened streets in my area. In the five years since the project was conceived, we have seen an explosion of growth that has brought an increase of traffic and congestion in town that eclipses the relief that the 400-odd parking spaces on Garden Street would bring. A large part of the problem seems to be poor city planning on the part of Hoboken’s current administration.
In the past few years we have watched as blocks of “condemned” and unused land are converted to high-priced “dorms” put up to cash in on the current housing boom. Even though the developers of these buildings are required to supply a certain number of spaces for their residents, this rule does not take into account several factors that have exacerbated the parking situation in the area. Some of these developments charge extra for parking, which probably forces many of their residents to try to park on the street to save the $200 a month they would have to pay. (Many are probably young people who are stretching their budgets for the privilege of living here). Another factor is the number of outside guests these new residents bring to town, especially on the weekends. These visitors must of course jockey with residents to find parking on the street. A year ago it was always possible to find a late-night spot in the desolate area west of Willow Avenue, but recently I’ve spent as much as half an hour looking for any spot in the same area.
When I see the buildings that have been put up in the area I see a huge wasted opportunity to make deals with developers to supply additional parking for residents and visitors alike. It should be noted that some of the lands that these buildings sit on were virtually given away by the city. Instead of relying on some gimmicky (and expensive) automated parking garage, It would have been easy to require each development to put in extra parking spaces which they could rent to outside residents at a fixed rate. As it is today I couldn’t even buy a parking spot in a safe, convenient area if I wanted to because it just doesn’t exist. I have been on the Parking Authority waiting list for over a decade now, and I’m still waiting for the privilege of paying for a parking spot.
Right now there is an entire empty block between Clinton and Grand streets (at 12th Street) that could provide spaces for hundreds of cars, but it sits empty and is probably slated to become another big development that will bring only more congestion. Spaces like this could still be developed as housing while supplying plenty of additional residential spots, but it would require someone with vision to change the current game plan and put the needs of current residents over the need to gain a few more new residents.
Although I still believe Hoboken is one of the best places in the New York City area to live, I think it is going to take some radical planning, a little common sense, and perhaps a few creative thinkers to keep this city attractive and livable in the future.