Now that the City Council has voted against reserving permanent parking spaces in Hoboken for the “Corner Cars” car rental program, the city could eventually see the cars removed from the city’s streets.
Another vote on the program is slated for this Wednesday’s council meeting.
Supporters of Mayor Dawn Zimmer and Parking and Transportation Director Ian Sacs have lauded the program, which allows Hoboken residents to easily rent Hertz cars by the hour. In fact, it has been written up in publications around the country. But on Nov. 15, a new anti-Zimmer council majority said “not so fast.”
Is Corner Cars a good program for Hoboken?
So why would council members be so quick to vote against the spaces?
Councilman Michael Russo, who voted against the ordinance, said the conversation about the program has been one-sided so far.
“Everyone always talks about the benefits of the program, but no one wants to talk about the detriment of the program,” Russo said. “We have 1,000 people signed up, but we also have 39,000 other people in the city who don’t use the program.”
“This is my solution to the city, and it’s working. They can take it or leave it.”– Parking and Transportation Director Ian Sacs
The city worked with Hertz to implement the program so that more residents would give up their cars and free up parking. Sacs said last week that 45 residents have turned in their city parking permits because of the Corner Cars program, and that the program is maturing much faster than he expected. He said that the program has taken 45 cars off the street, while adding 42 cars to corner parking spots.
Councilman David Mello, a Zimmer ally, said he would like to sit down with the council members who dissented so that the program is not killed in its infancy.
‘I want to see it tweaked’
Russo said the program has many benefits, but he wants to see more information before Corner Cars is solidified in Hoboken.
“I want to see it tweaked so the city benefits more, but that information has not been available,” Russo said. “When I see the hard data, then we can make some decisions.”
Russo said he is interested in how often the cars are being used by the people who signed up.
New Councilman Tim Occhipinti also voted against the resolution.
“During my campaign, I did a lot of door knocking and talking with residents, and the majority of the residents were not in favor of the Corner Cars program and its original intended use of removing existing cars from Hoboken,” Occhipinti said.
One specific issue is the location on 4th and Jackson streets, where, according to Occhipinti, a condo association has petitioned to have the Corner Cars removed.
“Director Sacs and I have been working together and he has provided the information that I have requested thus far, and I am reviewing it,” Occhipinti said.
Legal action on the horizon?
Sacs and Corporation Counsel Mark Tabakin have said legal action could be pending if an ordinance establishing spots on the street is not passed, because it could constitute a breach of contract between the city and the Hertz corporation.
Though Occhipinti said he is still reviewing the original contract, which was passed before his time on the council, he said he “will not put the city at risk for possible breach of contract.”
Councilwoman Theresa Castellano has been against the program since its inception, and was the lone “no” vote before the program was introduced in June. (Russo had voted in favor of it, but has since said he wants more data before it continues.) Castellano said at the last meeting that the program and legislation tells people how they should run their household, and she does not believe her position as councilwoman affords her the right to do that.
Sacs said that his goal is to lessen the demand for parking spaces in Hoboken, and he believes Corner Cars accomplishes that goal in the long term by offering other options to residents. Some residents who utilize the program have declined to bring their cars to Hoboken when they moved from a different area.
Sacs said that members of the program have reached out to him after reading about the council vote last week in The Hoboken Reporter.
“The facts are clear,” Sacs said. “If the council votes this down, we will be facing a lawsuit.”
The cars are placed on the streets because the visibility of the program is the key to its success, and street corners serve as better spots for the vehicles than hiding them away, according to Sacs.
Sacs said he has worked with council members when concerns were raised about the specific locations of various cars.
Legislation to return this week
Russo did not rule out voting for the program when it returns to the agenda.
“Hopefully the program will continue,” Russo said. “But we want to make sure this program is beneficial to our residents. Not just a portion of our residents, but all of our residents.”
Sacs said his goal as transportation director is to create a “menu of options” for residents of Hoboken. The menu includes bike lanes, Corner Cars, and The Hop, a low-cost local bus service. He believes if the program is defeated, it will remove an option from the menu, thus creating more demand for parking.
Sacs believes Corner Cars can go a long way in addressing the problem while he also works on enhancing The Hop and bicycle lanes.
“This is my solution to the city,” Sacs said. “And it’s working. They can take it or leave it.”
Ray Smith can be reached at RSmith@hudsonreporter.com.