The spaces have been assigned over the years to residents who applied for spots near their homes because they have a disability. According to Frank Mona, who handles all handicapped parking applications from the mayor's office, in order to receive a handicapped spot, a person needs to have a note from their doctor, a Disabled Person Identification Card from the Department of Motor Vehicles, and their driver's license and vehicle registration card.
Four hundred forty five may not seem like a lot when compared to the city's 67,088-person population. However, there are only 133 handicapped spaces in neighboring West New York, with a population of 45,768, and 30 in nearby Hoboken, with a population of 38,000.
On top of the 445 spaces already active in the city, Mona said that they are looking at a 243 person waiting list for new handicapped spaces.
Following the leader
According to Frank Mona, who is also the Drug Assistance Program Coordinator in City Hall, talk of establishing a better way of screening these spaces has been going on for several years.
Mona said that they have looked into the methods taken in nearby municipalities, such as Hoboken and West New York. In 1993, Hoboken began more rigorously reviewing handicapped parking spot applications. Each handicapped spot there takes a space and a half away from regular parkers. A three-member subcommittee was instituted in 1993, and handles all applications for spaces before they reach the Hoboken City Council for final approval.
Frank MonteMagno, a member of Hoboken's handicapped parking subcommittee, said that Hoboken has a total of 30 handicapped parking spaces in the municipality now and no waiting list.
"It was definitely a problem," said MonteMagno about handicapped spots that were given out before the subcommittee was formed, adding that there were about 80 handicapped spots in the city then.
According to West New York Police Captain John Santa Maria in the town's traffic division, all initial applications are handled by the traffic division before reaching the Board of Commissioners for a final vote.
One option that Union City has looked at over the years is having a separate committee that would include one handicapped person and possibly a doctor to look over the applications. Also they have discussed having a space renewed each year, so that spaces that are no longer needed are rescinded.
However, these intiatives have never been approved by city's Board of Commissioners.
"Now we have a mayor that wants to do that," said Mona. "So now we have to start all over." "We have to do something about it," said Stack.
Taking them back
Adding to the problem of too many handicapped spots is the difficulty that the city has in rescinding handicapped parking spots.
According to Stack, the only time they hear that someone has passed or moved away is when a neighbor calls and tells them.
"When people [with handicapped spots] either move or [pass away], rarely do we get a phone call saying that they do not need the spot anymore," said Mona.
Also, Mona found that some people would apply for a handicapped spot even if they had their own driveway. "You can't have it both ways," said Mona. "The parking situation in the city is too bad as it is. It is really not fair to your neighbors. We try to deny them when we can."