2005-12-14 / Features

Bill Brings Sunday Metered Parking To Some Commercial Zones

by john toscano


Sparked by complaints from Jackson Heights merchants that the ban on Sunday metered parking is hurting business, City Councilmember Helen Sears has filed a bill to lift the ban in some commercially zoned areas and Business Improvement Districts (BIDS) throughout the city.
Sparked by complaints from Jackson Heights merchants that the ban on Sunday metered parking is hurting business, City Councilmember Helen Sears has filed a bill to lift the ban in some commercially zoned areas and Business Improvement Districts (BIDS) throughout the city. Sparked by complaints from Jackson Heights merchants that the ban on Sunday metered parking is hurting business, City Councilmember Helen Sears has filed a bill to lift the ban in some commercially zoned areas and Business Improvement Districts (BIDS) throughout the city.

But fellow Councilmember Hiram Monserrate, who authored the law ending metered parking on Sundays and who fought furiously to get it passed despite Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto, is deeply annoyed with Sears’ legislation, which comes only weeks since Monserrate’s law went into effect. “I will be extremely active in opposing this ill-advised measure whenever it is discussed in the council,” Monserrate warned.

The lawmaker, who represents Corona, the district adjacent to Sears’ Jackson Heights enclave, also noted pointedly that he had corralled 43 council votes to override the mayor’s veto.

However, Sears voted “no”, both when the bill came up for a vote in the council and on the override, according to Robert Benfatto, her chief of staff.

“She voted against it both times for the exact same reasons she introduced her bill now,” he explained. Sears had raised these same questions in committees where the bill came up in hearings at every stage of its consideration Benfatto said.

Monserrate’s main reason for putting in his bill was that the Sunday meters near churches were disrupting his constituents’ church-going obligations. In some cases, he said, people and pastors were forced to leave during mass so they wouldn’t get a ticket for illegal parking at a meter.

But according to Benfatto, Sears was well aware of the problems created by Sunday metered parking near churches and is prepared to deal with it under her bill.

Benfatto stated: “We will work to exclude all areas near churches that will be brought to our attention when we hold hearings on the bill,” which will probably come after the new session starts in January. “We hope to get a hearing on the bill before April, before we start working on the budget,” he added.

Sears’ bill calls for “the activation of parking meters on Sundays in certain commercial areas,” and would permit metered parking, according to a copy of the bill she sent out, “for parking meters on streets or sidewalks immediately adjacent to all, or any portion of a zoning district designated C 4, C 5, C 6, C 7, or C 8 in the New York City Zoning resolution, or in all, or any portion of, a business improvement district... upon a determination that the suspension of such requirement would serve the commercial interests of such area or district or portion thereof.”

Benfatto said Sears was not happy with the blanket prohibition and elimination of Sunday metered parking, even if it was not near churches. He said that reinstituting Sunday metered parking in zones C 4 through C 8, targets commercial zones that were not in residential areas or had minimal numbers of residences.

When it was pointed out to him that there’s a good possibility that it will be found that there are churches in or near the zones Sears’ bill designates for metered parking, Benfatto answered, “We don’t know that to be positively true, but we think surely we’ll find out about these things during hearings on the bill.” The bill’s author will try to adjust for it as the situation demands.

BID areas exist where groups of small businesses in a commercial strip, such as Steinway Street, have joined together to make improvements that will attract more customers to shop.

Benfatto said that Sears had received numerous complaints about Monserrate’s bill when it was the subject of hearings. These came from merchants in her Jackson Heights district, from a BID in Brooklyn and in letters from Manhattan business owners, among others.

Monserrate said the dialogue on his bill had shown that many storefront churches can be found in C districts. He said he still gets stopped, not only in his Corona district but in Jackson Heights and other areas, by people thanking him for the ban on Sunday metered parking. “I can’t understand why, with such heavy support for my bill, that someone else in the council would put in a bill to undo all the good my bill does. I can’t see moving back from it in any way,” he said.

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