The Hoboken City Council approved for the first reading of an ordinance that would raise residential parking permits from $15 to $52 annually at last night’s meeting.
There were several residents who voiced their concerns during the public portion of the meeting prior to the council’s vote on the matter.
Andrew Impastato, the creator of the Parking Dude app, said he doesn’t think raising the residential parking fee is a long-term solution for parking.
He argued that the reason why Mayor Ravi Bhalla’s administration is seeking an increase is to offset a “huge spending problem” at City Hall, given that early projections show a $7 million budget deficit this year that could lead to 80 layoffs of municipal employees.
Impastato proceeded to tell the story of being given a credit card by his father in his teenage years to pay for gas for his automobile.
He eventually ran up a $1,000 balance because he used the card to spend on additional items, prompting his father to take away the card – which Impastato noted that he had to work three jobs to pay off.
“So, we can’t say yes to this ordinance because what we are then doing is giving Mayor Bhalla and the administration a new credit card to go and spend,” began Impastato.
“The overall theme is pretty clear and it’s hard to deny—he’s trying to use parking to raise revenue to make up for his over spending, whether it’s the multiple political positions at City Hall that previous administrations didn’t have to use [or] whether it’s the hundreds of thousands in attorney fees that we’re spending on eminent domain and grabs of land for new parks.”
The council voted 6-2 to approve the first reading, with 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos and 3rd Ward Councilman Michael Russo voting no, and 1st Ward Councilman Michael DeFusco absent for the meeting.
This morning, 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, the chair of the council transportation and parking sub committee, explained to HCV why she decided to introduced the measure.
“This has been a long talked about policy change to better price parking in Hoboken. People have different views, but given the demand for parking and the ongoing operational and capital needs of the city I believe that there is a need for an increase,” she stated.
“At $1 per week, this is still significantly lower than all other alternatives in Hoboken which range between approximately $40 per week and $75 per week in area garages. Will it help generate revenues in a year of a budget deficit? Yes.”
Meanwhile, Ramos echoed Impastato’s remarks in an interview that the administration is seeking to raise revenue in order to plug a projected budget deficit.
“It doesn’t solve a problem … all we’re looking to do is plug a revenue gap with this, that’s all this is.
“There’s no situation where any of the rates that we’re voting on tonight is going to solve the parking problem, this is not a quality of life issue, it’s really just a money grab to try to enhance revenue to try to plug a budget gap right now,” said Ramos.
In a separate interview, Russo said that he voted no because he believes Hoboken residents are already overburdened by increases in rates for other services such as water usage and that the city shouldn’t be charging for parking in the first place.
He explained that the city has gone down the road before of wanting to increase parking permit fees for visitors driving into the city but that idea was eventually rejected by Hoboken residents.
He used to be in favor of raising rates on visitor permit fees, until his constituents told him otherwise.
“Now we’re asking to increase residential parking permits, so my assumption is that we don’t have an appetite for that either,” said Russo.
He noted there are a couple schools of thought when it comes to raising the residential parking rates. One is that if the city raises the fee it could lessen the number of automobiles driven by residents in the city.
Still, he thinks that idea is far-fetched because people will always have to depend on their cars regardless of the cost of the residential parking permit fee.
“I don’t think that we are going to reduce the number of cars in the city, at least significantly, there may be some, but it’s not going to be a significant reduction where there is going to be open parking across the city because our residential permit fee rose to $52.”
He reiterated that he’s always been in favor of no fees for residential parking permits because he believes that the taxes residents pay cover the expense.
“What’s next? Are we going to ask for an additional fee for garbage pickup or for any other services that we are providing? All these small increases as everyone likes to call them, they add up and they add up quickly, and we have to do something to combat that,” said Russo.
However, 5th Ward Councilman Phil Cohen believes that an increase in the fee is warranted because even at $52, it will cost Hoboken residents just one dollar per week to be able to park for the entire year.
And he doesn’t buy the argument that the administration is proposing an increase in order to plug a budget deficit.
“I completely disagree. Listen, it’s good politics to say that you are against raising fees. We should be governing smart, and giving away free parking in the city where parking is our most precious commodity makes no sense,” began Cohen.
“So to me, $52 per year is a conservative price, it’s a common sense thing to do and I think it should have been done a long time ago.”