It's a word so pernicious - and a problem so pervasive - that the city has designated a specific authority to deal exclusively with it. The word is parking, and it seems that everything having to do with it, in this mile-square city choked with too many cars and too few spaces, causes controversy.
So it comes as no surprise that an HPA recommendation which the City Council passed recently that raises business permit parking rates from $5 a year to $50 has generated some ruffled feathers in the business community. Business parking permits allow workers who do not live in Hoboken to park their cars on the city's streets during working hours. Without them, employees would be forced to move their cars every four hours as other visitors to the city do.
"We are disappointed that the fee went up so much all at once," explained John Parchinsky, the president of the city's Chamber of Commerce and the owner of his own insurance firm, last week. "Going from $5 to $50 in one shot. That's a lot of money all at once."
To add insult to injury, Parchinsky says city officials never warned them that the price hike was coming. "They kind of overlooked the business community," he said.
The Parking Authority has said that applications for new permits, valid from Oct. 1, 2000 to Sept. 30, 2001, should be in by Oct. 20.
Needed the money
City officials say that not telling the chamber was simply an oversight.
"We did not mean to slight them," said HPA Commissioner Michele Russo, who is also the mayor's wife. "It is not our intention to hurt the businesses. We really did not want to raise the costs of these permits for residents. But we also had to find a way to cover our expenses."
City officials point out that businesses pay $250 a year for similar privileges in Jersey City. "We have not raised this fee since it was implemented more than 10 years ago," said Michele Russo.
Other changes will include a price hike on the red meters that line Washington Street. Instead of paying $.25 for 20 minutes as motorists have been doing, the rates will jump to $.25 for 15 minutes. The meters will be adjusted to allow people to leave their cars for 30 minutes. Current meters cap out at 20 minutes of time.
Though Russo was clear that there was no going back on the new fees, she did say that the Parking Authority would consider some steps to try and provide a boost to the city's businesses. Last week Parchinsky laid out some proposals in a meeting at City Hall. Both sides left the meeting saying that it was positive and that there would be no hard feelings.
Among changes the HPA will consider is a break in fees they charge visitors who are visiting local shops during weekends in December. The proposal will be considered when the HPA meets this week.
"A year ago there was no relationship [between the city and] the Chamber and now there is," said Parchinsky. "Even though this sort of fell through the cracks, I think that we all see that the business community is one leg of a three-legged stool including the residents and City Hall."