Business Leaders Protest Parking Meter Increase

Business Leaders Protest Parking Meter Increase

It’s déjà vu all over again. After successfully fighting a parking meter increase that would have raised rates outside Manhattan to $1 an hour in January, politicians and business leaders are incensed that Mayor Michael Bloomberg once again added increased parking meter rates in his executive budget.

City Council Members James Vacca (D-Bronx), Diana Reyna (D-Bushwick) and Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) gathered outside businesses on Austin Street in Forest Hills on Sunday to slam the Mayor’s proposal.

“This parking meter rate increase represents yet another hit to the average working-class resident of this city,” said Vacca, the chair of the Council Transportation Committee. “Between parking tickets that now exceed $100 and meters that could soon cost twice as much as they did two years ago, motorists are paying nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars every year to the city of New York.”

According to a report from the city Office of Management and Budget, in this fiscal year the city expects to collect $148 million in parking meters and $523.5 million in parking violation tickets. In fiscal year 2012, the report estimates the revenue will rise to $179.7 million in parking meters and $548.6 million in parking tickets.

In total, the city expects to collect nearly $700 million in fines and parking revenue, which Vacca, Reyna and Koslowitz pointed out was $250 million more than the operating budget of the city Department of Transportation.

“This Band-Aid approach is unsustainable and empties the pockets of consumers and merchants, while the economy is still recovering,” said Reyna, the chair of the Council Small Business Committee.

Calling the proposal a “regressive tax increase,” Koslowitz, the chair of the Council Economic Development Committee, said the increase would hurt small business strips throughout the city.

“Breaking the backs of the middle class and small businesses is the wrong way to fix our fiscal woes in the city,” she said. “Creating greater access to our business districts such as Austin Street in Forest Hills is crucial to the New York City economy. We have a responsibility to consumers and working people to make things easier for them during these tough times.”

Maria Thomson, who represents small businesses on Jamaica Avenue as the executive director of the Woodhaven Business Improvement District, agreed that raising parking rates would cripple businesses already struggling during the current recession.

“Why should people come and shop on our avenue or use any of our dentists or doctors when they can drive to a mall and do all their shopping in one location and not pay one penny in a parking charge,” Thomson said. “People will go right across the border and shop in Nassau County, or find places within Queens that offer free parking. It puts us at a great disadvantage.”

Business owners agreed that an increase in parking costs would drive away business. “It will kill the small business here. The customers will go to big malls instead,” said Haim Ochayon, owner of Boutique for Children on Austin Street, to the New York Daily News.

Two years ago, parking meter rates were 50 cents an hour—a price that had remained unchanged for 17 years. In 2009, rates were raised to 75 cents an hour. Bret Collazzi, deputy chief of staff for Vacca, told The Forum in an e-mail that his office is still examining whether legislation should be introduced that would increase transparency when the city raises rates. An earlier plan where the City Council would have to approve parking meter increases was scrapped because the City Charter gives the DOT Commissioner direct authority to set parking rates.

by Eric Yun


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