Somerset County News

Somerville Approves Free Downtown Parking During Holiday Season

Somerville has waived parking fees in Lots 1, 2, 4 and 6 from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day. Credits: Rod Hirsch

SOMERVILLE, NJ - As expected, the Borough Council last night continued its longstanding holiday tradition of waiving parking fees between Thanksgiving and New Year’s to help boost retail traffic in the downtown area.

The resolution, which passed unanimously, waives parking fees in Lots 1, 2, 4 and 6. A pre-existing holiday and weekend parking ordinance was amended to include Lot 4 in the exemption.

Metered parking will continue on Main Street.

Sign Up for E-News

The vote came following an exchange between Mayor Brian Gallagher and several merchants who blame decreased traffic on Main Street and in their stores on higher parking fees that were increased late last year.

With Black Friday looming, downtown merchants were anxious for the resolution to be passed with several dozen retail store and restaurant owners on hand for the vote.

Afterwards, they promised to blitz social media to spread the word.

Free parking during the holiday is a tradition in Somerville, designed to attract shoppers and visitors to the downtown area and increase retail traffic in the stores along Main Street, the Division Street pedestrian mall and other side streets lined with restaurants and shops.

There are 1,100 parking meters and pay stations in the borough, according to Kevin Sluka, borough clerk.

Last year, however, the borough limited free parking in the metered lots during the holiday season to Saturdays only; there is no charge for parking in the lots on Sundays.

Increased parking fees instituted late last year have been a contentious issue with merchants, some of whom have organized an upstart business association, Business Owners on Main, in an effort to modify or eliminate metered parking as one of its objectives.

BOOM has met twice since Oct. 26, with some members attending the monthly meeting of the Downtown Somerville Alliance Nov. 14, where the conversation continued.

The DSA is empowered by the Borough Council to advocate for business and property owners and to market and promote the downtown, as well as impose a tax on Main Street property owners within the designated Special Improvement District to fund its efforts.

Gallagher proposed Monday night, and the Borough Council agreed, that a dormant parking study committee be revived, with members of BOOM, the DSA, Borough Council and a few residents appointed to re-examine the parking dilemma.

BOOM will meet again Dec. 11.

The lame-duck mayor, who was elected to a three-year term as a Somerset County Freeholder and will assume office Jan. 5, said the Borough Council had reached a consensus last year before implementing the higher rates, saying it was unfair for borough taxpayers to subsidize public parking.

There are two other options, Gallagher explained: the DSA could subsidize the parking fees by charging property owners and landlords a higher tax, or charging the motorists who park downtown to pay for the upkeep and maintenance of the lots.

“I don’t think it is fair for Somerville taxpayers to pay for the lots,” Gallagher said.

There is a fourth option, according to Anthony Ianniello, owner of Alfonso’s Family trattoria and Gourmet Pizza, a fixture on West Main Street for more than 60 years. 

 Ianniello advocates free parking, but even he admits there is little likelihood that will happen.

“The first thing you have to do in business is take care of your customers,” Ianniello said. “How can a downtown survive when we make it more difficult for our customers to come downtown,” he continued.

“You guys have to notice there’s no one there,” he told Gallagher and the council members.

Gallagher also said it is unfair to blame decreased Main Street traffic entirely on the revised parking fees, pointing to the undulations in the retail market and shopping patterns of consumers.

 “The world of retail is shot,” Gallagher said. “It doesn’t look good,” he added, pointing to major retailers and shopping malls that he claimed too, were “sucking wind.”

“Amazon wins,” he said, a reference to the online retail juggernaut.

Gallagher also suggested that rather than retreating to their respective corners and pointing fingers at one another, stakeholders should come together and explore alternatives to boost retail traffic in the downtown area.

The revised parking regulations, first adopted late last year and revised earlier this year, extend the time limits placed on Main Street parking meters from two to three hours, and eliminate time restrictions from off-street parking meters in municipal parking lots 1,2,4,6 and 7.

The borough maintains seven parking lots; Parking lots 1 and 2, behind the Main Street shopping district stretching from Maple Street on the east to North Doughty Avenue on the west, includes 300 spaces, according to Sluka. Lot 7, located on E. High Street between North Bridge Street and Grove Street has 170 spaces.

Lots 3, 4 and 5 on the east side of the borough are much smaller. Lot 6 is primarily used for jurors who drive in from outside Somerville.

The revisions adopted earlier this year include:

·       Enforcement times Monday-Saturday that begin at 9 a.m. were extended three hours, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., meaning there will fewer hours to park for free;

·        The new enforcement times in Parking Lots 1, 2, 4 and 6 are Monday through Saturday 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Hourly rates increased from 25 to 75 cents an hour for Lots 1,2 and 6;

·        The rates for Lot 7 increased from 25 cents to 50 cents per hour. Sluka said efforts are being made to encourage merchants, employees and others who spend their day in Somerville to park in Lot 7, which will add up to significant savings over a month’s time. Enforcement times in Lot 7 are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m-8 p.m.;

·         The hourly rate for Lot 4 was increased to $1 per hour with a maximum parking time of 2 hours. 

          The 12-minute, limited-time penny meters in the vicinity of the Post Office on Division Street have been left untouched.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

Sign Up for E-News

Warren

Primrose School of Warren Gives Back

December 11, 2017

All parents want their children to develop traits such as compassion, generosity and kindness, but just like math and reading skills, the traits associated with being a socially responsible person must be nurtured and developed over time. 

 

Compassion, generosity and kindness is difficult to define for young children, let alone determine how to teach them. The earlier these ...

Obituaries

- Oct 26, 2017
Robert N. Merkle – Plainfield Robert N. Merkle, 88, died Thursday, (October 26, 2017) at ...
Read more

Thank You to the town of New Providence

November 29, 2017

On behalf the of the Gelormini family, we want to extend our sincerest gratitude and thanks to the entire Borough of New Providence for their outpouring of love and support during this terrible time of grief and loss. For those that don’t know us, my husband and I are lifelong residents of New Providence. My husband Bob works for the Borough and was a volunteer fireman for 13 years. My twin ...

WHRHS Boys Soccer: Six Watchung Hills Players Named to All Skyland Conference

December 13, 2017

WARREN, NJ - Six players on the Watchung Hills boys soccer team have been chosen to the All-Skyland Conference Raritan Division teams.

Ryan Santos, Gabriel Ferreira, and Shaun Cagnetta were selected to the first team All-Skyland Conference Raritan Division for the Warriors. 

Marc Inacio, Davin Lui, and Liam Scanlon were named to the All-Raritan ...

College Board Names Watchung Hills Regional High School to 8th Annual AP® District Honor Roll

WARREN, NJ — The Watchung Hills Regional High School District is one of 447 school districts in the U.S. and Canada being honored by the College Board with placement on the 8th Annual AP® District Honor Roll. 

 

To be included on the 8th Annual Honor Roll, the Watchung Hills ...

Panel Discussion: School Consolidation Complex and Costly

SPARTA, NJ – A large crowd filled the Sparta High School media center on Wednesday to hear a panel discussion about school consolidation.  More than 150 people attended the event sponsored by New Jersey School Boards’ Association, according to Ray Pinney, Director of Member Engagement.

The discussion hit both sides of the issue.  “Some say it is a panacea, some say ...

Storm Watch: Closings, Cancellations and Postponements

WARREN, NJ - All Warren Township schools will be closed Saturday in anticipation of the predicted storm and all activities scheduled at the school have been canceled including WYBA recreation basketball. Breakfast with Santa and the house tour in North Plainfield are still on as scheduled.

 

Some ACT centers have canceled the test for Saturday. Check the host high schools’ web ...

Watchung Hills Pop Warner JV Advances to Semis in Orlando

ORLANDO, FL- The Watchung Hills Pop Warner Junior Varsity team improved to 12-1 on the season with a win over the Mid-Atlantic Region Champs, the Portsmouth Panthers from Virginia on Saturday, 22-13. The win also improved the four-year record to 48-5 and the Wolverines advance to the semi-finals on Tuesday, December 5 where they will face the Westchase Colts from Florida. Game Captains ...

Watchung Hills Students Benefit from more than 70 Co-Curricular Activities

WARREN, NJ - Hundreds of students take advantage every year of some 70 Co-Curricular Activities at Watchung Hills Regional High School (WHRHS).

According to Dan Bertelli, who is the supervisor of Arts, Health/Physical Education and Co-Curricular Activities, students participate for a variety of reasons. Some students want to have fun, explore new horizons, ...

Breaking: NJT Raritan Valley Service Suspended in Both Directions Due to Pedestrian Fatality

December 3, 2017

PLAINFIELD, NJ - According to the New Jersey Transit Twitter feed (@NJTRANSIT), service on the Raritan Valley Line is suspended between Bound Brook and Plainfield in both directions, due to a trespasser strike east of Dunellen Station.

The Breaking News Network is reporting a train vs. pedestrian fatality in the vicinity of Rock Avenue in Plainfield.  The medical examiner has been ...

Osborn Cannonball House Museum Open House and Christmas Party on Dec. 3

SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Come one! Come all!

The public is invited to the Osborn Cannonball House (1840 Front St in Scotch Plains) for the annual open house and Christmas party on Sunday, Dec. 3, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. The event features a Victorian Christmas tree and 1800s winter clothing display, along with hot mulled cider along with goodies to ...

North Plainfield School District Pays $35,000 to Resolve Employee Discrimination Claim

December 11, 2017

TRENTON, NJ - The North Plainfield Public School District has paid a former employee $35,000 to resolve allegations it engaged in disability-based discrimination by firing her for “job abandonment” after she missed the last three weeks of a school year due to gallbladder surgery, attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and the Division on Civil Rights announced ...

Somerset County Athletic Complex Earns State Recognition

BRIDGEWATER, NJ – The Baseball Field at the Somerset County Park Commission Frank “Nap” Torpey Athletic Complex in Bridgewater is the recipient of the 2017 Sports Field Managers of New Jersey “Field of the Year” award.

The 2017 award complements the 2013 award for the softball field, and is the second time that the baseball field has earned the honor, having also ...

North Plainfield Board Education Approves Non- Renewal of Superintendent, Appoints Acting Superintendent and Board Member Resigns

NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - The North Plainfield Board of Education voted on Wednesday to not renew the employment contract of Superintendent Dr. James McLaughlin and approved a leave of absence for him with pay from Dec.1 through the end of his contract, June 30, 2018.

 

Assistant Superintendent Michelle Vella was appointed and approved by the board as acting superintendent effective Dec.

North Plainfield Board of Education Set to Meet Wednesday, Non -Renewal of Superintendent McLaughlin On Agenda

NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - The North Plainfield Board of Education is set to meet on Wednesday, Dec. 6 and on the agenda is a motion to not renew the contract for district Superintendent Dr. James McLaughlin.

The last page of the agenda states, "The Board of Education non-renews the Contract of Employment between the Board and Dr. James V. McLaughlin for the position of ...

Ship Bottom Christmas Parade "Deck the Hulls" This Saturday December 2nd

December 1, 2017

SHIP BOTTOM - The 38th Annual Ship Bottom Christmas Parade will take place this Saturday, December 2 at 1 p.m.  The parade will run along Long Beach Boulevard from 5th to 25th Street. .  

This years theme is "Deck the Hulls." The community is encouraged to enter a float for your family, business or organization.  There are no registration fees ...

Senate Bill Would End NJSPCA's Powers To Enforce Animal Cruelty Laws

December 11, 2017

A bill that would remove the law enforcement powers of the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NJSPCA) will be up for a vote on Dec. 14 before the state Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

Bill S3558, sponsored by Senator Ray Lesniak, Democrat from Union County, would call for the creation of a county prosecutor animal cruelty task force in each county, and for ...

Your Doctor in Sickness and in Health

December 12, 2017

About 3 years ago, around the time healthcare was saying its last goodbyes to solo practitioners, I decided to plunge into the world of private practice and one morning announced to my family, “I am starting a new primary care solo practice.” I am an Internist of Asian Indian origin and I graduated from residency about twenty years ago. To say that my family was bewildered is an ...

Bring Back the Solo Physician

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - As far back as we can remember, the hallmark of American medical care was that solo physician who greeted you by your first name and inquired about your family. He/she then directed you to the exam room and patiently discussed your concerns. After going over treatment recommendations and addressing your concerns, he/she finally waved good-bye.

Today the experience of an ...

'An Act of God' takes a leap of faith at George Street

‘An Act of God’ takes leap of faith at George Street Playhouse

By Liz Keill

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – If anyone can portray God, it must be Kathleen Turner. Local theatre goers are fortunate indeed, to have the throaty, stage smart Turner in our midst.

Turner, of course, is not only an acclaimed actress, but a female God with plenty to say about the ups and downs of religion ...