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TOM Parking Plans Spark Controversy

Much of the Mamaroneck Town Board’s agenda for April 1 was pushed to the backburner as the issue of parking, especially in the Washington Square area, monopolized most of the meeting that lasted until 11:30 pm.

The plan under discussion involved five separate areas:

  • Commuter Lot 1 (off Myrtle Boulevard across from Plates restaurant): which is devoted to commuter daytime parking and is available to anyone after commuter hours. Current costs for a daytime permit are $400 per year; a license to feed the meters is $40 per year and a day’s worth of parking costs around $3. The proposal was to increase the annual permit to $500; the meter license to $50 per year and the daily cost to around $5.
  • Parking Deck (formerly Lot 3): will contain 138 undesignated spaces for 24-hour parking. Twenty of these spots will also be sold to area businesses for daytime use from 8 am to 6 pm. The current charge for Lot 3 is $450 per year or $250 for seniors. The proposed charge was $875 with no senior discount.
  • Lot 4: additional spots are available on Byron Place for area residents who purchase overnight parking permits. The spots are used by Coughlin Building employees during the day. The current charge is $250 per year; the proposed was $300.
  • Myrtle Boulevard: Six additional spaces will soon become available across from the clock tower building , with a proposed annual feel of $300.
  • Area Business Parking: The plan would install meters for street parking on Myrtle, Madison and Byron that would cost around $5 per day.

Still awaiting approval by the New York State Legislature is a home rule request to allow the Town to establish the Washington Square parking area. This would create 175 spaces along New Jefferson Street and Murray and North Chatsworth Avenues. Under current requirements, fifteen percent (or 27 ) of these spaces would be set aside for the general public from 10 am to 10 pm. From 10 pm to 10 am the spots would be available only to Washington Square area residents who purchase overnight parking permits. The fee for on-street resident parking under the home rule request has not been determined, but Town Administrator Steve Altieri indicated it would be nominal.

Supervisor Valerie O’Keeffe and Town Administrator Steve Altieri repeatedly asked meeting attendees to urge  Senator Suzi Oppenheimer and Assemblyman George Latimer to get the home rule request approved this year. (See: TOM Parking District Bill Advances; Parking Deck Delayed.)

Assemblyman Latimer, reached after the meeting, said, “I put it in again and expect it to pass again in the Assembly. With the new Senate majority and Senator Oppenheimer’s enhanced postion of influence, I would expect the bill will pass this year.”

Complaints and Criticisms: Originally, the board had expected to discuss and vote on the new fee structure. But with the exception of changes for Lot 1, which were approved, the board never got to vote. Complaints and criticisms of the parking plan, mostly from Washington  Square residents, occupied most of the animated and occasionally vehement discussion.

The concerns raised by residents covered a wide range. A number of residents urged that the new parking deck contain individually dedicated spaces. Some expressed fear that without such designations people from outside of the area would would park illegally on the deck. Other speakers wanted the abililty to purchase two permits for the same car – one for the deck and the other for on-street parking. One resident asked if a fellow apartment dweller with four cars would get four permits. Still others were upset when they realized overnight guests would need to park in the commuter lot and walk back to their hosts’ homes. Some expressed need for parking availability on the street adjacent to their apartment buildings for easy access to drop off or pick up passengers and packages. There were also objections to the sharp increase in fees and the elimination of senior discounts.

Board members along with Mr. Altieri and  Town Clerk Christine Battalia defended the proposal, stating they had consulted with experts in modern planning methods and had tried to balance the needs of apartment dwellers with those of commuters, shoppers and local businesses. Dedicating particular spots for specific residents would not maximize available parking, they explained,  since spaces would go unused when a resident’s car was not in its spot.  Valerie O’Keeffe asked several times for the residents to be patient. She said if the plan does not work, the Town will find other ways to deal with the problems. Board members also discussed establishing a “loading zone” in front of apartment building that currently lack such an area. Some board members suggested that particular buildings could hire a concierge for a greater portion of the day or a doorman to help unload packages.

Mr. Altieri explained that a resident with one car cannot have two permits, in effect taking two spaces. The four-car owner would conceivably be able to purchase four permits, if there was availability. He also stated that designated spots would not be available.

Supervisor O’Keeffe agreed with some of the residents that the parking deck fees were a huge jump from the prior level. She suggested that the fee increase might be done in increments, but did not indicate support for a senior citizen discount. The citizens’ committee that worked on this issue was composed of Washington Square residents, 75% of whom were seniors and who participated in developing these proposals, she noted.

Finally, as the hour grew late and after a ten minute recess, the board agreed that Mr. Altieri and Ms. Battalia would prepare a supplemental memo for the next meeting.

UPDATE: Following the meeting, and after numerous emails and telephone calls, the Town Board met and decided on a new proposal that would: phase in increases for Lot 3  and extend discounts for seniors and others with certian limited incomes. The details will be discussed at the next meeting, which was originally scheduled for Wednesday, A5ril 15 but was postponed until Tuesday, April 21.

ALSO: Tributes, Forest City, Scarsdale Strip Taxes  & Organics

Prior to getting bogged down in the parking discussion, the board squeezed in a few other matters.

Former Town Supervisor Christine Helwig (1969-1975)

Former Town Supervisor Christine Helwig (1969-1975)

Tribute to Christine Helwig:  The board opened the meeting with a moving memorial tribute to Christine Helwig, the first woman to serve as a town supervisor in Mamaroneck (1969-75) and in all of Westchester County, who died on March 14 at the age of 95.  Ms. O’Keeffe, Councilwoman Phyllis Wittner and former Councilman Lee Bloom spoke fondly of her dedication and service to the community and her farsighted concern with conservation. She was instrumental in getting the county to deed fifty-four acres of surplus land to the Town for park and recreation use. This area ultimately became the current Leatherstocking and Sheldrake Trails. She also served for a decade on the Mamaroneck School Board (1949-59).

Extension of Special Permit on Parking Deck Construction: The Board held a public hearing and then unanimously approved an amendment to the special permit issued to Forest City Daly,  the developer of the parking deck on Myrtle Boulevard (see prior issue of Larchmont Gazette for details). The original target date for completing the deck was April 14, 2009; that has been extended 30 days because of requests by the Town to delay pouring concrete until warmer weather conditions prevailed.

“Mamaroneck Strip” Residents Air Tax Issues: Angela Manson, representing residents in an area of Mamaroneck Town that is in the Scarsdale School District, addressed the board about the level of taxes they have been assessed. Residents of the “strip” receive some services from Mamaroneck and some from Scarsdale and pay a proportion of taxes to each town. In the past two years, they have seen a 24% increase in their Scardale assessments, which they believe are unfairly high.  They have spoken with Assemblyman Latimer and now seek Town support in dealing with the New York State Real Property.  At the request of Supervisor O’Keeffe, the group agreed to present their issues in greater depth at the next board meeting.

Improvements Sought in Removing Organic Waste: Ruth Campanelli, a member of the Larchmont Gardens Civic Association, asked the board to improve its organic waste removal services. She asked the Town to publicize more widely the start of the organic pickup season. (It was April 2 this year.) Currently, the Town notifies residents  via  the annual newsletter that outlines all dates for Sanitation Department pickups and on LMC-TV and the Town website.  Ms. Campanelli suggested that violation notices and summonses include information on the pickup start dates and on the availability of free permits for both residents and gardeners who would cart waste to the Town yard on Maxwell Avenue. (See: Sanitation/Recycling Schedule and Calendar & Information.

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1 comment to TOM Parking Plans Spark Controversy

  • blobel

    A lot of discussion has been held but unfortunately not a lot of logic displayed. Whatever ‘numbers’ are finally picked for Mamaroneck Town parking permits, the various ones under discussion seem to be explained only as relating possibly to some other rates in other areas of Westchester and then only barely so, and to what size increase would be reasonable.

    Logic might dictate that as parking is a privilege and not a right, and that driveways/garages in houses are taxed to homeowners based on ‘market value’ 24-hour parking permit fees could reasonably be priced at market value.

    That would also presumably reflect both the on-going costs of the maintenance of the lots, the costs of enforcement, the value of the land/structure, alternative uses of the sites, etc. Such ‘market value’ could be determined by some kind of ‘appraisal’ and verified and adjusted periodically as supply and demand indicated.

    Maybe, 24-hour parking should be $100/mo.; maybe another number. $100/mo. would approximate the proposed daily meter-parking price. An assumption of say 50 spaces (number not yet known) on the new deck, at a construction cost to the developer of, let’s say, $2.5m would be about $50,000/space for construction and at the recent roughly 4% TOM bond rate, annual interest on $50,000 would be about $2000/year.

    Maybe there should be two or more prices, for 24-hour permits. A higher price for designated spaces and a lower price for 24-hour ‘space available’ permits. If certain designated spaces are more desirable than others that also could be reflected in pricing of the permits.

    If permits prices have been arbitrarily low for a long time that is not relevant. To provide parking at a subsidized price for a limited few who are able to get permits is not the function of Government. The function of Government is to serve the overall public good.

    It might be reasonable to take some portion of collected from ‘market rate parking fees’ and use it to subsidize parking fees for those on limited/fixed incomes.

    It might be reasonable to take some portion of ‘market rate’ permit fees for use towards a jitney type of public transportation. This could reduce the need for parking spaces in congested areas of the Town and contribute to the air quality through a reduction of the number of cars driven within the Town.

    The remainder of any ‘profit’ generated by ‘market rate fees’ could go into the general Town funds to reduce the required property tax collected from Town residents. This would be justified, as the parking spaces are the property of the Town, and as such of all its residents.

    And while outside the province of the Town Board, and perhaps subject to contract provisions, the school system could raise additional funds, reduce its parking space requirements, and also contribute to the environment, by charging staff and students for parking.

    At least we would move from a system of relatively arbitrary numbers to a system that has well-grounded justifications both economically and socially.