Parking proposal ignites controversy

More hours during which drivers can get boots, tickets

In a move that has already outraged critics, the City Council has introduced an ordinance that will expand permit-only parking hours in various zones downtown and the business district. The current rules require residents in any of 12 zones citywide to get a parking permit for their zone, which is not transferrable elsewhere. Cars parked in another zone for longer than the designated time, or without the proper permit, risk getting ticketed or booted.
Currently, drivers can park in most of the zones for a maximum of two hours between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The proposed change would increase the regulated hours to 11 p.m. in the downtown and business districts. However, it would also give people without a permit three hours rather than just two to park there, so that they could shop and enjoy local restaurants.
Councilwoman Candice Osborne said this is a matter of closing two loopholes in the existing laws.
“People in high rises are supposed to park in those buildings,” she said. “That’s why those buildings were required to have parking and they are not allowed zone parking permits. The problem is, many skirt the law, because if they work in New Jersey and drive to work, then they are gone from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. So, they never need to get a permit [during the day] and don’t park in their buildings.

“The concept is that people in those buildings do not need a car.” – Michael Yun
“That is a very old law [at least ten years]. There never would have been support for adding these buildings to neighborhoods if there were not parking in them. The problem is, we have a major loophole. If we change the law to be until 11 p.m. with a three-hour window, that means that unless they get home from work after 8 p.m., they will be forced to park in their buildings, which was the intention of the existing law.”
The proposed change spilled over into the public portion of the Feb. 24 council meeting where critics such as resident Yvonne Balcer argued that the changes only increase the burden on other people seeking to park downtown.
Balcer said because she lives in a building that has off-street parking, she is banned from getting a residential parking permit, even though she is a resident of Jersey City and in the zone.
“It is unfair and discriminatory,” she said, saying that the two-hour limit in other parts of the city make it impossible for her to go to the doctor and other appointments without fear of being ticketed.

Critics say city is at fault of lack of parking

Balcer said the city is wrong to approve high rise buildings that do not have enough parking to accommodate all the residents in those buildings. The Planning Board has approved buildings in the Journal Square area with a ratio of one parking spot for every two units on the assumption people will use public transportation.
In other parts of the city, such as downtown and new development recently approved in areas beyond the waterfront, the ratio is slightly better.
“But there is not one parking space for every residential unit,” Balcer said.
Mia Scanga, another frequent critic of the city’s development, said parking is an issue in a number of projects given tax abatements by the council.
While council members said the number of parking spots for various projects is in the purview of the Planning Board, critics say the council could choose to use its power to deny abatements in order to force developers to increase parking facilities.
Scanga pointed out that Mayor Steven Fulop has gone on record against the city building municipal parking decks. This means, she said, some residents of high rise buildings will either have to do without cars or park illegally.
At a series of community meetings, Fulop said he had no plans to build public parking except near shopping districts like Central Avenue. He said the more parking the city builds, the more people are encouraged to use cars.
Like many older communities, Jersey City was never designed to handle the volume of traffic the city currently deals with. Trolleys and other public transportation were transplanted in the 1950s by the new emerging car culture. Cars are a key part of suburban culture, but the recent trend back to the cities is worsening the lack of urban parking.
City planners have sought to approve developments that would steer people to use public transportation.
Councilman Michael Yun said that in some areas of the city such as Journal Square, the development plan assumes that there will be more use of public transportation, so the ratio is different from other parts of the city.
In most cases, the plans that come before the council have already received approval by the Planning Board, so the council has less power to determine how many parking spots are approved.
“The concept is that people in those buildings do not need a car,” Yun said. “Our hands are tied.”
Denying short term abatements would likely result in legal action against the city, since developers have a right under state law to ask for such abatements.”
But Balcer said such plans seem geared towards wealthier and younger residents, and not toward people seeking to raise families in Jersey City.
“If you don’t have a car in Journal Square and you have a family, then god help you,” Balcer said. “How do you get groceries?”
She said these parking policies discriminate against poorer people who cannot afford to use services like Uber.
Esther Wintner said the city’s policy on parking is flawed. “One parking spot per unit is very important,” she said.

Forcing out-of-town people to pay more for parking

The other significant change to the ordinance would affect Hudson Street, which is the daytime financial district.
“Hudson Street, which is all the big banks and back offices, [don’t have] residential buildings, yet they were included in zone 4 parking,” she said. “When you work in a zone, you can get a cheap permit to park on the street [$300 per year as opposed to $200-$300 per month for private lot parking]. So I have Jersey City residents who actually live in zone 4 who have to pay for private parking because we are giving zone permits to out-of-town people who work on the waterfront. Those people should either take public transportation (PATH, light rail, ferry) or pay for garage. They shouldn’t force residents to pay for garage parking so they can get essentially free street parking.”
This has been a dispute elsewhere in the city, especially along Central Avenue, where business owners have asked to qualify for “cheaper” permit parking, fueling this anti-out-of-town sentiment.
Yun, who is deeply involved in the Central Avenue business district, argues that business people should qualify. Osborne has been a staunch supporter of resident-only parking when it comes to residential parking permits.

Al Sullivan may be reached at

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