CAMDEN, NJ — Parking regulations have been tempered across New Jersey with COVID-19 being priority for municipalities and driving itself taking a backseat for residents adhering to stay-at-home orders.
Tone Henshaw, 50, has been at home for most of the last month like many of his fellow Camden residents and says from what he’s observed while looking out his window, enforcement hasn't been curbed enough.
“I’m located on 3rd and Cooper and I’m just seeing over and over again people being ticketed while an executive order is in effect,” Henshaw told TAPinto Camden. “I just don’t understand why they’re out there at all. I thought Moran advised not to do this. We're in the middle of a pandemic.”
City spokesman Vincent Basara said that in fact Camden Mayor Frank Moran did ask for leniency across the city as the pandemic worsened earlier this year — with residents dealing with other financial burdens, not moving their vehicles as much and municipal buildings no longer being open thus making it more difficult to negate a violation.
Parking regulations have been lessened, he said, to a degree.
“When it comes to life safety issues [such as] parking in front of hydrants, fire zones, on corners, places where blocking traffic presents a problem for emergency workers, there you have to take action...for public safety purposes,” Basara said.
Camden Parking Authority Executive Director Willie Hunter said that his office has been working with Moran “to accommodate residents during this trying time.”
One example he highlighted was that enforcers currently work until 5 p.m. instead of the usual 10 p.m.
“In Camden City, we are not following the street sweepers and writing tickets behind them, nor are we doing residential areas, because we realize there are more people home due to this pandemic," Hunter said over the phone. "We are all in this fight together against this virus."
In the past week, TAPinto Camden has received complaints about tickets being issued for residents that live in front of meters, as well as drivers being flagged at metered spots near hospitals.
“We are writing tickets around hospitals because we want to make sure for people coming in and out that visitors are able to find parking,” Hunter said.
Nevertheless, Basara and Hunter both noted that residents have the ability to negate a claim by contacting the parking authority over the phone or via mail.
The claims will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
For residents that live in front of meters, a $60 meter permit is available that is valid year-round and, Hunter said, part of a process that can be carried out without in-person contact.
Henshaw, who lives in an area surrounded by meters, said he did not know about the permit and has recently opted to park as far as three blocks to avoid being ticketed.
“Really, I think any ticket written by the parking enforcement from the point when Gov. Murphy’s executive order took effect should not be held up,” Henshaw said.
In Tuesday’s virtual City Council meeting, council president Curtis Jenkins and Councilwoman Felisha Reyes-Morton both referenced communications with Moran about putting a pause on issuing tickets in the city and floated the prospect of waiving tickets post-March 21 when Murphy’s order took effect.
“With social distancing going on and people being home from work, there're a lot of people and a lot more cars on the street now than there would normally be,” Jenkins said.
Whether tickets would be outright waived is something Hunter said he would inquire with the administration about but not currently on the books.