With 9,000 legal parking spots in Hoboken and 16,000 parking permits issued annually by the city, it’s no wonder parking is a problem in Hoboken.
However, since Fox5 aired an investigative story two weeks ago showing that the city has been improperly ticketing some visitors, residents have emailed the Reporter with their own complaints.
Hoboken Parking and Transportation Director Ian Sacs took questions from the Reporter last week to provide some answers to questions that residents have.
Angelo Valente is a longtime Hoboken resident and former councilman who lives on upper Bloomfield Street.
“There’s a lot of confusion about parking regulations and enforcement in most neighborhoods,” Valente said.
“We’re not trying to trap people.” – Mayor Dawn Zimmer
“[An HPU officer] told me that the yellow lines don’t mean anything,” Valente said. “I can’t imagine that the city is expecting residents to drive around with tape measures.”
The law isn’t a local one, but it comes from a state statute, Sacs said.
“Then there really needs to be an appeal made to the state to look at that statute to see if there’s something practical we can do in Hoboken,” Valente said.
Valente believes that the city should examine a way for people to be able to park closer to the crosswalk.
However, the city discussed the same matter during the previous mayoral administration – and dropped the subject after a young woman on a bike was struck and killed by an SUV in 2004 near the corner of Grand and Newark streets. At that point, the city stepped up the ticketing of cars within 25 feet of curbs.
Councilman Michael Russo said discussions to allow cars to park closer picked up again in 2005, but the issue fell to the back burner.
Sacs said that the city is in the process of painting all of the curbs so that they conform to the 25-foot statute.
“Parking too close to crosswalks blocks visibility between drivers and pedestrians and makes it difficult for emergency vehicles to navigate our narrow streets,” Sacs said. He added that enforcement of the law is why pedestrian/vehicle collisions in Hoboken are down in the past year.
Sacs said that the city has done its best to make sure signs and paint are maintained, “but we’re not perfect,” he said. “If residents find locations where paint is faded or absent, simply contact my office and we will add it to our constituent response work order queue.”
The Hoboken Parking Utility can be reached at (201) 653-1919.
However, there could be some relief on the way for corner parkers.
“We’re working on an ordinance that’s going to bring parking in a limited fashion back to the corners,” Councilman Peter Cunningham said in an interview on Wednesday. The rules could include parking on one-way streets near corners that wouldn’t obstruct the views of crosswalks, he said.
Permit problems and regulations
Christine Starbuck, a Hoboken resident, said she had trouble acquiring a business permit for her babysitter.
Starbuck, who said she had an unpleasant experience in the HPU, said she was told that she needs to provide copies of paystubs, as well as banking and income tax information in order to get the permit for the babysitter.
“I was told that the [HPU] needs to know that I’m paying people on the books,” Starbuck said. She said she does report what she pays her babysitter, but does not utilize a payroll company or have paystubs – instead, she uses direct deposit, where money is transferred from her account to her babysitter’s.
Starbuck said a side effect to these requirements could impact undocumented workers in the city. She questioned the right of the HPU to enforce immigration laws in the city.
“I said if this is a proxy crackdown on undocumented people, that’s wrong.” Starbuck said.
However, the HPU does ask people applying for a business permit for paystubs.
“It’s an invasion of privacy,” Starbuck said.
Sacs said that the rules of the HPU are established by the City Council to protect limited on-street parking, “and easing back on the rules will only exacerbate the difficulty of finding parking since more people will be able to get permits.”
The required documents for permits can be found on the city website.
Starbuck believes that the HPU should “roll back requiring the proof of withholding,” she said, and added that instead of requiring all of the personal information for a business permit for her babysitter, applicants could supply a notarized letter.
Late night shift
So why is there an outcry from newly ticketed drivers? The HPU recently began a few initiatives that have caused confusion for some motorists.
One is automatic parking meters that are not always placed right next to the parking spot in question. A bigger change has been a new “late night” shift of enforcing parking rules until 2 a.m. Before that, enforcement stopped at 9 p.m.
Mayor Dawn Zimmer said that the new shift of parking enforcement came about because of resident concerns, even though it’s now residents who are being ticketed that are sometimes complaining.
“People would come home from work and couldn’t find spots on the street,” Zimmer said. “Part of what’s happening is that there is enforcement until 2 a.m., and people are surprised by it; but we’re trying to help Hoboken residents find a place to park…we’re not trying to trap people, not in any way.”
Zimmer also said that sometimes communication can be a problem.
“I recognize that there’s always room for improvements,” Zimmer said. “We are looking very closely at the signage to make it clearer and we are also looking at what can be done to make sure residents and visitors understand the parking rules, where the garages are, and how we can develop a better communication plan.”
Sacs said that the city is looking to increase options for alternative modes of transportation, including a city-wide bike-sharing system, and even an increase in the city’s shuttle bus The HOP, which is a city bus initiative.
“Ten miles of striped bike lanes are planned, and over the next few weeks, we will be installing dozens of more bike racks and a bike repair station near the PATH,” Sacs said.
Sacs said that despite the complaints that are coming in from residents, he believes the city is making progress on the parking front.
“In the past two years, nearly 1,000 fewer residential parking permits were sold,” Sacs said. “We have nearly 2,000 members in the Corner Cars program and almost 100 residents have surrendered their parking permit.”
Last month, the city was awarded by the New Jersey Department of Transportation and Rutgers for pedestrian safety solutions, and Sustainable New Jersey awarded Hoboken for innovation in transportation/parking solutions.
Despite some rumors in the business community, the city is still issuing free parking permits that allow employees to park in city garages for $5 per day.
“Each time we put a person on a shuttle bus, or a permit is surrendered, or a Corner Car membership is started, or we get an award for safe streets, or we write a ticket for someone parking at a crosswalk, we are making incremental dents in the propensity to own a car, and those who don't need to own one are choosing to give them up because new options are available to them,” Sacs said.
Ray Smith may be reached at RSmith@hudsonreporter.com