Mar 03, 2011 Ami Olson Uncategorized
Scott Makarchuk said he walked around the corner of his bookshop in Eastwood one windy day and looked down James Street to see parking tickets flapping on the windshield of every car on the street.
A few months later, there weren’t any cars to be ticketed, Makarchuk said. He co-owns and manages Books and Memories at 2600 James St.
The sudden enforcement of parking regulations in the neighborhood didn’t spark people into paying for metered parking on the five-block stretch of James Street, he said. It drove people away. The neighborhood looks abandoned. People found free parking off the main drag or have stopped patronizing the Eastwood business corridor all together, Makarchuk said.
Either way, it’s bad for business.
That’s why he’s leading the fight to pull the parking machines from the street.
Pull the pay stations
“For the city, it must have been good money initially, they must have been rolling in the cash,” Makarchuk said. “The reality was, this neighborhood slowly responded by not parking on the street anymore.”
When the street looks empty, he said, people won’t stop to shop. They think they’re doing something wrong by parking on the street, or that the businesses aren’t worth stopping for, Makarchuk said.
His own sales have dropped nearly 40 percent “every day since they emptied the street,” he said.
He contacted the mayor’s office. Not only was his business hurting, Makarchuk argued that the empty street would invite crime.
The city, he said, suggested he organize a community effort to possibly negotiate lowering the parking rates.
“But it not about the rate,” he said. People aren’t parking and patronizing in Eastwood because of the hassle, not the price of parking, Makarchuk said, and the only solution he sees is to remove the machines all together.
In response, Makarchuk has organized two petitions — one strictly for Eastwood merchants, the other for the community as a whole — to take to the mayor’s office to fight the parking enforcement.
The effort has gained steady support the neighborhood and the online community petition had garnered nearly 200 signatures at press time.
The 2010-11 city budget suggests the city intended to crack down on parking violators.
The previous year, the city estimated it would take in $1,720,000 from those who paid for parking at metered spaces, plus $2,400,000 from parking tickets.
Those estimated revenue numbers jumped up in the 2010-11 budget. The estimated revenue from parking meters is budgeted at $1,806,000, a relatively small increase of $86,00.
But the city expects to make an additional $350,000 this year, for a total of $2,750,000 in parking ticket fees.
Syracuse Police Sgt. Gary Bulinksi said the increase in enforcement is not a new initiative, in Eastwood or any other neighborhood.
“There are no special initiatives going on,” Bulinski said. “If there is an increase [in ticketing], it’s probably the result of increased complaints.”
Bulinski said an increase in parking tickets could actually be the result of residents and business owners complaining to the police about parking violators.
The police department devotes nine uniformed parking checkers to enforce parking regulations throughout the city.
Back on the radar
Stephen Skinner, who owns Sacred Melody plaza in Eastwood and heads the Eastwood Chamber of Commerce, said Eastwood seemed to be off the radar of parking enforcement in the past.
“But over the past year it has been quite stifling, to the point where if you are just a couple minutes late the lovely ticket is in your door,” Skinner said.
He said the chamber understands the city’s need to find revenues wherever it can.
“However, the economy is tight because people are tight,” he said. “And if people are tight then they are going to go to wherever they feel they get the most bang for their buck. So consequently, many people I have spoken with would rather drive a mile or two and get everything they want with free parking than shop locally, pay for parking and risk a ticket.”
He pointed out that many suburban villages with a similar business corridor to Eastwood offer free two-hour parking. But since Eastwood is within city limits, parking regulations are set by the city.
Turnover and consistency
Andrew Maxwell, the city director of planning and sustainability, works out of the mayor’s office.
While “questions about parking come up quite frequently,” Maxwell said, he wasn’t aware of any previous attempts to remove paid parking completely in a Syracuse neighborhood.
Maxwell said any changes in parking rates would have to be made through the Common Council, but eliminating paid parking in the neighborhood was not likely.
“I don’t believe we’re going to take steps to remove the parking machines,” Maxwell said. “I don’t believe it would be a good idea to remove them, and I don’t think anyone here [in the mayor’s office] believes it would be a good idea to remove them.”
Paid parking, Maxwell said, discourages business employees or neighborhood residents from filling up the on-street spots meant for customers and patrons, and encourages turnover of visitors to a neighborhood.
Paid parking in business corridors throughout the city, like Eastwood, Westcott and North Salina Street, creates consistency and is the ultimate goal, Maxwell said.
“Given that we use these parking pay stations in other parts of the city, I find it hard to believe that people wouldn’t return to a business because of one parking ticket,” he said.
But that’s exactly what Skinner sees happening in Eastwood.
“We have had businesses close or relocate due to it,” he said. “That obviously doesn’t help bring growth or tax revenue. Small neighborhood villages like Eastwood need every reason to attract businesses to open and residents to shop, not the opposite.”
What happens next
Common Councilors Kathleen Joy (at-large), Matt Rayo (1st District) and Nader Maroun (5th District) attended the Feb. 28 Eastwood TNT meeting, where the paid parking enforcement was a hot topic.
Check out Eastwood Renaissance Association for a list of the “nuisances” the group applies to the parking machines, and view or sign the petition.
Follow updates to the story at theeaglecny.com or in upcoming issues of The Eagle.