SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – As Seton Hall has grown over the years, so have the university’s parking problems.
They reached a breaking point of sorts last September when the largest freshman class ever arrived on campus and the scarcity of parking spaces—and the daily frustration of students and faculty—forced university officials to make decisions that will change the way the campus looks and operates.
- REBUILDLING SHU: Part 4 of 11. Seton Hall University embarks on the biggest campus renovation in a generation, hoping to make life better for students without making life worse for residents of South Orange. Read Part 1: Overview. Read Part 2: Funding. Read Part 3: University Center.
“Parking is one thing we always hear of,” said A. Gabriel Esteban, who has been getting an earful about the parking situation since becoming Seton Hall’s president in 2011. “We actually sweep the campus for empty parking spots, I think they do it every 30 minutes, to see how many spots are available.”
To help improve this parking crunch on campus, Seton Hall administrators have pushed ahead with plans to extend the current Seton Hall parking garage, building an addition on land near Ivy Hill Park that currently holds several tennis courts that will increase the number of spaces in the parking deck by 500.
Plans for the extension are under review by the South Orange Planning Board and if they are approved, construction is anticipated to start in late summer or early fall and be completed by August 2014, according to Associate Vice President of Facilities and Operations John Signorello.
While they have increased in intensity, parking problems are nothing new to Seton Hall. Tracy H. Gottlieb, the university’s vice president of student services, was a student at Seton Hall in the 1970s. She describes the parking situation when she was a student as “terrible.”
“When I was a student, Seton Hall was a commuter campus … there were no dorms for women,” Gottlieb said. Female students at Seton Hall during that time usually stayed in apartments off campus.
The layout of the campus then was also substantially different.
“Where the library is (now located) there was a parking lot and the library was located where Jubilee Hall is (currently located),” Gottlieb recalled. The parking deck was not yet built.
Administrators have made many attempts to find more parking. During the 2012-13 school year, a parking task force studied long-term parking and carpooling solutions.
For some added relief this past fall, Seton Hall University purchased 40 parking spots on South Orange Avenue in front of the university in order to ease the parking problem on campus during the busiest hours, usually from 11 to 3. Only students and faculty with Seton Hall parking permits are allowed to use those spots.
Seton Hall officials have reached out to the South Orange parking authority to negotiate the use of spaces on South Orange Avenue again for the 2013-14 school year.
“We were very concerned that there was going to be a (parking) crunch on campus, so we worked closely with South Orange (parking authority) to secure the spaces around the campus as a viable parking place,” Gottlieb said. At least until the parking deck addition is completed.
Seton Hall officials expect to get the majority of the work on the addition done during school breaks, in order to keep disruptions to a minimum. “We don’t anticipate traffic patterns in the parking deck to be effected in any type of way,” Signorello said. “We also anticipate no spaces will be lost during the school year.”
Signorello could not comment on the price of the renovation because the construction is still in competitive bid.
For Seton hall’s students, parking is a constant headache.
“The parking situation is horrible, there are way too many people who have parking passes and not enough spots,” said Karissa DePena, a senior.
Efa Akutekha, also a senior, said: “It is really irritating when you are driving around and around searching for a parking spot. It seems at Seton Hall you have two options, either get up extremely early and get to campus early or deal with the parking crisis at Seton Hall that can make you late for class.”
Adding additional parking spaces on and off campus are expected to improve the whole environment on campus, according to Gottlieb.
“Parking is a huge quality-of-life issue,” Gottlieb said. “When you start your day irritated at your college, it’s not a good thing.”
This series was reported and written by the Advanced Reporting class at Seton Hall University. This article was written by Briana S. Knox, who graduated in May.