Will Hoboken stop booting cars?

Proposal sent to committee; housing authority must deal with emergency generators

The Hoboken City Council decided Thursday night to defer action on an ordinance to eliminate the use of wheel clamps, better known as parking boots. They sent the proposal to the council’s Parking and Transportation committee for review.
The ordinance claims that Hoboken’s practice of booting illegally-parked vehicles violates the city’s parking code and is too often used to generate revenue for the city rather than for its stated goal of creating parking for residents.
New Jersey’s state booting law, passed in 1985, was followed up by a 1991 law in Hoboken’s municipal code that allows for vehicles with outstanding warrants to be booted. The city passed a set of laws under Mayor Dawn Zimmer in 2010 making it legal for the city Parking Utility to boot vehicles for other reasons besides having outstanding warrants.
Recently, the Hoboken Reporter and other outlets have reported that members of the public have been stranded for hours trying to get the boots removed, and feel the measure is excessive. A Republican assemblyman, Declan O’Scanlon, has also introduced a measure to clarify when cities can and can’t boot people’s cars. Local Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia has joined him.
Often, Hoboken boots a visitor’s car if it is parked is a residential zone, or in a visitor zone if it lacks the proper permit. But many have said the signs are confusing, and city officials have agreed.
According to records found through the Open Public Records Act, the city of Hoboken grossed $5.6 million from parking tickets in 2013, up $1 million from its total in 2012.
If the ordinance is passed, the Parking Utility will no longer be allowed to boot illegally parked cars, but would be authorized to tow the vehicle to free parking space for another driver.
“On so many levels it helps the resident,” said 3rd Ward Councilman Michael Russo, a member of the Parking and Transportation committee. “If you boot a car, it stays in the parking spot. If you tow the car, now you have a free spot. And sometimes when you boot a car, it can sit there for 3 or 4 days.”
The Parking and Transportation committee is scheduled to review the proposed ordinance on June 12 and make recommendations to the City Council.
However, one argument raised against the booting is that a visitor who is pregnant or dealing with an emergency may be stranded upon returning to their car. Towing their car away may make things worse for them.
Last week, a spokesman for City Councilwoman Beth Mason, one of two sponsors of the rule, said, “Beth’s position is simple: if a person wrongfully parks then ticket them. If it is a public safety reason such as a snowstorm or hurricane and cars need to be towed for emergency reasons then that is a different story. But in terms of towing for a parking offense, especially the first offense, they are absolutely not in favor of that.”

Council agrees to fund generator study

The council amended a resolution to support the Hoboken Housing Authority (HHA) Board of Commissioners to fund an engineering evaluation to install emergency backup generators. The council voted unanimously to loan the HHA board $25,000 for that purpose.
During Hurricane Sandy, the Housing Authority lost power. Last summer, the agency received new backup generators, but they have not yet been installed and are sitting in a parking lot.
The HHA has filed for permits to install backup generators and electrical subpanels that were below Hoboken’s design flood elevation. In a letter to Executive Director Carmelo Garcia and the HHA board members, Mayor Dawn Zimmer proposed that the city could fund an engineering study to explore options for raising the generators to an above requisite level. With hurricane season approaching, the city’s administration considers it imperative to have the generators up and running.
“I wanted to be able to give a clear direction to [HHA Director Carmelo Garcia] that we need to continue to move forward on getting our backup generators installed,” said Councilman at Large David Mello, who also serves as vice-chairman on the HHA board. “I don’t want these subpanels to be installed and be potentially exposed to severe damage and then have to replace them again if another Sandy-type storm comes our way.”
Before being amended, the resolution proposed funding $25,000 for the evaluation, with money from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF), which is allocated under the city’s budget and not the HHA’s. But the AHTF’s job is to create more affordable housing in the city, not to finance for repairs or maintenance.
The original resolution was strongly opposed by most of the council members. The resolution was amended to loan instead of fund the HHA board’s requested amount at an interest-free rate from the city’s general budget, and not from the AHTF. The agreement seemed to slightly satisfy both anti-Zimmer and Zimmer-allied board members.
“One of our jobs as the elected officials of the city is to manage our dollar amounts,” Russo said. “Those community boards that have access to such a large budget need to find money within their budget. This was a nice compromise to loan them the money and when they figure it out in their own budget, they’re giving it back.”
“It seems like everyone is a little happy, and a little unhappy, which is a mark of a good compromise,” said HHA Chairwoman Dana Wefer, who supported the original resolution.
The adopted resolution did not finalize the loan, and only supports the action to fund the engineering study on the condition that the HHA provides all documentation relevant to the use of the loaned money to council.
Aside from handling business issues, the council also proclaimed June 15 to June 21 as “Childhood Cancer Awareness Week in Hoboken.”
The next City Council meeting will be held Wednesday, June 18, at the council chambers at City Hall.

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