September 10, 2013 at 7:45 AM
SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – Residents of the Tuxedo Park neighborhood turned out in numbers to plead with the Board of Trustees to take immediate action to solve the problem of Seton Hall University (SHU) students parking on residential streets. Since the semester began two weeks ago, many students have not been able to find parking spaces on campus and have taken to parking on the neighborhood streets.
At the start of the public commenting portion of the meeting, Village President Alex Torpey asked those in attendance how many of them were there to discuss parking in Tuxedo Park, and it was most of the 30 or so residents a the meeting.
Torpey began with a recap of the situation thus far. He said that Seton Hall officials have indicated that the school has experienced an unexpectedly large number of students registering for parking permits this year, and they have issued more than the campus can accommodate.
When students found themselves with nowhere to park, campus safety officials directed them to park on nearby residential streets and opened the campus gate on South Centre Street, which has historically remained closed.
Residents found cars lining both sides of their previously quiet residential streets, leaving no street parking for their families or friends, and creating a dangerous situation for their children.
The long-term solution is an expansion of the school’s parking deck, which was approved by the village Planning and Zoning Board recently. That construction will now begin, and will most likely be completed in 18 to 24 months.
Medium-term solutions include extending the stretch of South Orange Avenue where student parking is allowed, permitting parking on the east side of Ward Place which borders campus, and putting gravel down on some open fields on campus to turn them into temporary parking lots. The village is also looking to allow some SHU employees to park in municipal lots at New Waterlands Field and elsewhere and having the school run shuttles to and from campus.
Torpey said that he and South Orange Police Chief Jim Chelel had spoken with SHU officials again on Monday and were assured that the gate would be closed and that students were informed that they should not park on the Tuxedo Park streets. Residents did not believe the problem would be solved without adding restrictions to the parking on streets that have not had them already.
One after another, residents took the podium and expressed outrage and disappointment in the university’s lack of consideration and respect. Some questioned why SHU is allowed to issue more parking permits than it has spaces.
It was pointed out that school buses are having trouble navigating the streets when cars are parked on both sides, and children are being dropped off in the middle of the road. The same problem would be encountered should a fire truck or other emergency vehicle need to get down these streets, creating a potentially tragic situation.
Residents of Mercer Place, Milton Place and Cameron Road asked for new restriction to be enacted immediately.
Trustees Sheena Collum and Mark Rosner agreed that the village president should enact temporary measures to change the parking rules to mend the situation.
At first, Torpey resisted, wanting to take a wait-and-see approach in regard to the promises SHU had made on Monday, but the board voted unanimously to recommend the president to take action now and he said he would. Village police and fire officials will be asked to close one side of each street in Tuxedo Park for the next 90 days, while the board can examine long-term solutions and pass an ordinance.
Residents were pleased with the action and most filed out before the board went on to other matters.