As both a Hoboken resident and business owner, I am saddened as I watch many long-time Washington Street merchants closing or moving off of Washington Street. It is clear that this trend will continue until every unique little shop and restaurant not serving the bar crowd is gone from Washington Street.
While no one can ever pinpoint exactly why businesses leave it is evident that two major factors are at work in Hoboken. The first is the dramatic increase in rents, many of which have doubled or even tripled in the last 5 years.
Unfortunately, there is no way to control this market driven factor. The second is the dramatic decrease in business stemming from the systematic reduction in parking for employees and customers. Customers who live in and out of Hoboken want to shop in Hoboken, but without parking they go elsewhere.
As a member and now the president of the Hoboken Chamber of Commerce, I have been part of many efforts to convince the current and previous city administrations that the success of quality stores and restaurants in Hoboken is not guaranteed, and in fact is in jeopardy. Parking on and around Washington Street is a problem that has gotten worse over the years as a direct result of actions taken by the city. Within the last three years parking on Washington's neighboring streets has effectively been removed as an option for shoppers with the installation of the resident only parking areas (green signs). Many parking meters are now filled by employees from local businesses because they have nowhere else to park and the enforcement of the state law prohibiting parking 25 feet from any crosswalk has removed many more spots. While I applaud the city for making changes to improve public safety, I am disappointed that this and other changes were made with little thought to how they would effect our local businesses. The damage done to the Hoboken's image as a good place to shop and dine by customer after customer getting booted, fined or towed may not be easy to fix.
The Hoboken Chamber of Commerce and the City of Hoboken have been meeting recently to discuss ways to better use the parking available. As a result of these meetings the City has adopted the following new policies that the Chamber of Commerce endorses. The first gives local business employees reduced rates in our municipal garages. This should increase the number of meter spots available to shoppers. The second is to eliminate the red (20 minute) meters, making meter rates and time limits consistent throughout Hoboken at $1 an hour with a maximum stay of 2 hours. This rate is consistent with neighboring towns, and the increase of the maximum stay to 2 hours should make it more reasonable for customers to shop and dine without feeling rushed.
The above mentioned changes are a good first step, but there are many parking issues that still need to be addressed including better use of our residential (green) signs during off peak times and the creation of parking specifically designed to meet the needs of visitors. The Chamber of Commerce will continue to voice its concerns about parking and other issues that affect businesses in Hoboken. It is out hope that through a cooperative and thoughtful review of the cities policies we can work together to help businesses throughout Hoboken thrive.
President, Hoboken Chamber of Commerce