WESTFIELD, NJ — Westfield resident Katherine Haldeman questioned the use of Downtown Westfield’s parklet by private businesses at Tuesday night’s town council meeting. Haldeman said that she read on social media that someone who wanted to sit there was shooed away by a restaurant owner who had set up tables.
Parklets are a temporary extension from the curb to the street that can be used for additional public space. Westfield’s parklet was installed on Elm Street in June by the Department of Public Works and is scheduled to be removed for the winter.
“The problem with the parket is restaurants — it’s in front of restaurants. Private business. And it was put in and suddenly the restaurants were putting reserved signs on their tables, not letting any — shooing the public away,” Haldeman said to the council. “I don’t care how many parklets we put up. I don’t think we should be enhancing private business with taxpayer money. And that’s what I’m angry about. And that’s the only thing. It’s useless to the public without some sort of seating there besides restaurant tables.”
“Was that you that was shooed away?” Mayor Andy Skibitsky asked.
“No, somebody said they were shooed away,” Haldeman said. “And now you’ve answered all the preliminaries — we’re allowed to sit there, we’re allowed to use their tables, they cannot put reserved signs, blah blah blah. And everything was fine, until this woman said she was shooed away. How did these restaurants get the idea that it was theirs?”
Skibitsky said that the town asked the restaurants to put the tables there.
“This is a trial program. We asked the restaurants to provide the tables,” Skibitsky said. “But they also know that they can’t reserve the tables.”
The mayor said that he is downtown frequently and he has seen people using the parklet all the time, even drinking coffee there from other locations.
“It’s not perfect. And so, if there’s issues as far as the trial program, I encourage you let me know all the details, the specifics, the date and time it occurred and I’ll be happy to go there myself,” Skibitksy said.
“And what are we supposed to do while they’re eating?” Haldeman asked. “If they’re setting up tables, putting tablecloths, silverware and people are eating, there’s no room for the public to sit. And we’re supposed to stand on the little boardwalk?”
Skibitsky responded that all of the feedback will be considered for the parklet program over the winter.
“If it’s for the public, please put a bench there or chairs so we can use it,” Haldeman said. “Because when the restaurants take away the tables there’s nothing there. So the public isn’t using it.”