I'm not referring to political machinations or police improprieties. I'm talking about the very essence of the city, its tone, fabric, and direction. Its attitude. Hoboken has made it very clear that it barely tolerates its shrinking underclass, its older residents, and above all, outsiders.
Take its parking restrictions. On a recent rainy evening I parked a block off Washington Street while participating in a learning discussion at Symposia Books, the only place in town older people can meet and discuss anything in a civil manner. Because I didn't have a pocket full of quarters, I wound up with a $20 overtime ticket and the feeling my days visiting this city are over. Consider blocks and blocks of metered parking where you get a lousy 15 minutes a quarter. A nine o'clock extension of meter required time, fully two hours beyond other towns. Dark green signs prohibiting parking by non-residents. Light green signs with four-hour limitations for non-residents. Every single corner painted yellow. Threats to boot and tow. Fees that are ridiculous, garages that have jacked up their prices, meter people who ticket for spurious reasons.
Two years ago, I received a ticket on Washington St. for a violation that neither the city prosecutor nor I could translate, and it was thrown out. I treated the situation with humor. But these restrictions are no longer funny, not when you're on a fixed income.
Surrounding towns have nothing like Hoboken's restrictions. You can park in Weehawken, Jersey City, and Bayonne after 7 p.m. without worrying about feeding meters. It's the same with Bergen County towns. What about New York City, you ask? The simple fact is people put up with NY parking restrictions because of what the city offers. In warm months you can choose between free events at South Street, Battery Park, Wagner, Rockefeller, Madison Square Park, the World Financial Center, Lincoln Center, Central Park, Prospect Park - the list is endless. If Manhattan is the varsity and Brooklyn is the junior varsity, Hoboken is lucky to run the concession stand.
Has anyone noticed that except for certain blockbuster movies, attendance at Hoboken's outdoor events has either stabilized or declined? Why? How about dozens of other places where parking is more accessible that now offer the same sort of free events? Has anyone taken stock of the type of audience that attends Hoboken's events? You'd have to look pretty hard to find Latinos or people of color. Yet if one goes to a local football game or a Hoboken High School theater event, you'd be hard pressed to find whites or Asians. The chasm between a continually shrinking minority population and wealthy property owners or renters widens every year. Hoboken High, once one of the most populous schools in the county, now has one of the smallest enrollments. All those young families we see walking along Washington, in the parks, evidently can't move fast enough to get their kids into private schools and away from their city's public establishments, which their taxes support. It makes no logical sense why anyone living in Hoboken would own a car with its attendant expenses when they have access to local and national public transit at their fingertips, i.e. the PATH, Light Rail, NJ Transit, Grand Central Station, Port Authority, and Penn Station. Eliminate those unnecessary vehicles and hundreds of spaces would open up for outsiders to arrive, park and spend money.
When I was a mailman in Hoboken in the late 1970s, there were thousands on welfare, some waiting outside the post office for their monthly check. That is no longer the case. As the city's Social Service expenses have declined along with its underclass, its tax revenues have skyrocketed in line with unending development. Financially, there is no solid reason to continue imposing these ridiculous parking restrictions.
All Hoboken has done is force people like me to spend money at other cities' restaurants, stores, and clubs. You got my $20 bucks, Hoboken, but that's the last time I give you a chance to gouge me. And I'm not the only one who's made that decision. There's more than one way to fight a bully. - Joe Del Priore