The West New York Board of Commissioners followed through on a campaign pledge to dissolve the parking authority with a unanimous vote at last night’s meeting.
In an interview after the vote, we asked Mayor Gabriel Rodriguez several questions pertaining to the ramifications of the parking authority now being a part of municipal government.
“This has been an ongoing process. We evaluated by way of an audit and a report months ago the performance of the parking authority. It is no secret that lack of parking is an issue in our community, and we want to address that issue head on,” he explained.
“In looking to deliver on our promise in providing more parking, dissolving the parking authority was the step in that direction.”
Up until yesterday’s vote, the parking authority existed as an autonomous agency with eight board members who oversaw fare collection, issuance of parking permits and parking enforcement.
Last year an independent auditor, New York Capital Markets, produced an 137-page report that said the town could save taxpayers up to $429,000 annually if the town absorbed the authority.
Back in October, former Mayor Felix Roque and Parking Authority Executive Director Amiris Perez voiced opposition to the initiative, part of what slowed the process since abolishing the agency required at least four votes (former Commissioner Susan Colacurcio was part of Roque’s unsuccessful re-election bid in May).
After the new administration took office in May, the first reading to abolish the parking authority passed unanimously in July before the second reading was tabled in August as the town awaited formal approval from the state to move forward.
According to Rodriquez, most current parking authority employees will not be losing their jobs. In fact, he said that several employees were in favor of dissolving the authority.
“We have employees in the authority that have expressed that they would love for this to happen, and even their union itself said they were in support of dissolving the authority. All of this has to do with the fact that they, too, would like to see a better efficiently administratively. I would risk to say that most of those employees haven’t seen a raise in quite some time,” Rodriguez said.
And as far as the eight board members, Perez, and other administrators, we asked Rodriquez if they will have a chance to re-apply for leadership positions once the new utility is up and running.
“It’s in my opinion that we can have a board, even with the authority being dissolved, even if we don’t need it, I think it’s important to have a board to oversee, maybe establish a committee of residents if the actual use of a board isn’t needed to see projects through,” began Rodriquez.
“A board may not be needed legally. Whether we need a board or not, I think we can use those same board members and make them committee members of the parking authority so that there’s still an element of public residents overseeing the processes of [what] will now be the parking utility.”
Rodriguez envisions that one of the new parking utility’s first tasks will be to create a new model of parking in West New York.
“We want to build on our floor lots and create garages for the community, like the one on 62nd street. We want to duplicate that model on the other floor lots in town to create garages for our residents to use and for shoppers along the [Bergenline] Avenue.”
The mayor further stated that the transition for the utility to overtake all the responsibilities from the parking authority should be completed by November.
Additionally, he believes residents should expect a seamless transition to a new utility website once the current parking authority’s website is taken offline.
Perez did not return a message seeking comment.
We live streamed a portion of the commissioners meeting to our Facebook Page, which can be viewed below: