SUMMIT, NJ—Residents of an apartment building at 145-147 Summit Avenue appeared at the first Summit Common Council meeting of September to protest conversion of five-hour parking meters in front of their building to employee-only parking on weekdays.
One of the residents, Karen Blumenfeld of 147 Summit Avenue, said residents believe their section of the street was “carved out” for the parking designation change without notice to neighborhood residents.
Blumenfeld added her parents, both of whom are disabled, now will not be able to park at meters directly in front of their building, while “hooded” meters less than a block away were unused when they could be utilized for employee parking.
She also noted that the condominium at 50 Parmley Place, which has underground parking for all tenants and where Councilman-at-Large Richard Sun resides, apparently has been “exempted” from the employee-only parking zone. She also said the condominium has two free “loading zones” on the street at which that building’s landscaper parked without paying a fee.
The resident also said the City should not be converting fee payment on all its public spaces to payment by Smartphone when many senior citizens and the disabled prefer to pay with coins or do not not have Smartphones.
Another resident of the Summit Avenue apartment building said the parking spot conversion has made it more inconvenient for her two autistic nieces to visit and has created problems for a doctor whose office is next to her building because he does not have adequate parking for many of his disabled patients.
Joanne Gagliardo of 147 Summit Avenue said there is not adequate parking on the premises of the apartment building for visitors, including her 89-year-old brother. She asked that the City allocate at least a few spaces for use by the apartment building.
Council members said they would try to find a solution to the Summit Avenue parking situation, but several of them were quick to reply to Blumenfeld’s implication that the redesignation of the parking spaces was done with favoritism toward Sun.
Ward I Councilman David Naidu said the fact that Sun lives on Parmley Place never entered into his deliberations on parking.
He added, “our City has an increasing number of office buildings, with many of the employees in those buildings all here between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. We are trying to find parking solutions while trying to avoid building a new parking garage at an estimated cost to taxpayers of $10 million.”
Naidu added, “Sometimes our decisions bring about unintentional results. We are not against residents or the disabled. We are trying to figure out the best solution.”
Council president Michael McTernan said parking solutions “often are more art than science, even though we wish they could all be science.”
McTernan thanked the Summit Avenue residents for their input, adding that is how things get done in a democracy -- as a result of citizen input.
He also said the Summit Parking Advisory Committee (SPAC) should be taking the Summit Avenue contingent’s comments under consideration in its discussions.
Additionally, he agreed with Naidu’s comments concerning the implication of favoritism against Sun.
Blumenfeld urged the governing body to put enforcement of the parking redesignation on hold until those discussions are completed.
Naidu also said a more expeditious solution could be found if parking services manager Rita McNany was brought into discussions. He said he would like to see some parking solution for the front of 145-147 Summit Avenue prior to the next Council meeting, which is scheduled for September 19.
Ward I Councilman Robert Rubino said he also would like to see a more rapid solution to the City’s parking deficit, noting the most recent parking study -- completed in 2016 -- that calculated a deficit of 250 to 400 spaces.
Rubino added 17 spaces had been added in the central business district and the City was experimenting with discounted Uber rides for commuters, noting it had been more than two years since a new parking deck was suggested as one of the solutions and nothing had been done about that suggestion.
The councilman noted that cost could be paid for partially by user fees and spread out over time.
He also congratulated Sun for continuing to commute from Harvard Law School to Council meetings and said “both sides of the aisle” worked effectively during Rubino’s time on the governing body with selfish interests never entering into deliberations.
Ward II Councilman Patrick Hurley agreed that SPAC needed to act more on strategies to address the parking capacity problem. He said he would “push through” a solution for a parking garage at the current Lot 3 or another site on the Council general services committee.
Hurley added that Sun’s residence in no way influenced the parking redesignation decision made by the general services committee, which he chairs.
He also said that the City’s parking payment system is not completely based on Smartphones, but still allows for payment by coins and other methods.
He added it is a shame in the many discussions on parking that some of the solutions make it seem like the disabled or senior citizens were being disregarded when this is not the case at all.
In other business, the Council introduced three ordinances related to the City’s settlement of its affordable housing quota negotiations:
- One saying that existing design standards in proposed 'overlay zones' would be the yardstick for future development of the zones. Rubino said this was directed at the area of the Marco Polo restaurant.
- A second changing the minimum for the size of developments requiring affordable housing “set asides” from developments of seven or more units to those of five or more units.
- A third codifying the City’s agreement on affordable housing into the City code.
The hearings on the ordinances will be held on October 3.
Also up for public hearing and possible final adoption on October 3 will be a change in the city’s alcoholic beverage control regulations to allow restaurants to serve alcoholic beverages earlier on Sunday to accommodate brunch patrons and allowing package goods stores to sell wine and beer earlier on Sundays.
The Council also gave its endorsement to an application by Reeves-Reed Arboretum in its application for a Union County Historic Preservation Trust Fund Grant to enable it to install a new water heater and boiler and make repairs on the wood on the outside of its Wisner House.