NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- The New Rochelle City Council has authorized funding, in part, an Emergency Parking Study by a consulting firm hired by the New Rochelle Downtown Business Improvement District two weeks after BID leaders dismissed concerns about downtown parking in connection with a college dorm.
The request for funding was submitted to the City Council by City Manager Chuck Strome at the request of Ralph DiBart, Executive Director of the BID.
In the memo, dated February 1, 2013, Strome states:
The BID would like to retain the services of Tim Haahs and Associates for this analysis. This firm has done work for both the City and the BID in the past and in this instance the firm would be retained by the BID. It is anticipated that the total cost of the study will be $10.000 and the executive director of the BID and I believe that the City and BID should share the cost of the study.
In fact, according to an email from Ralph DiBart to members of the BID Board dated January 25th, DiBart had already retained Tim Haahs and Associates and that work began on January 28th. The work is based on a proposal from the consulting firm dated January 23rd. DiBart says he expects the work to be completed by the end of February.
City Council, nor the public, was informed during the public meeting that the work on the study was already underway at the time Council was asked to approve the funding although one Council Member, Albert Tarantino, is also on the BID Board.
The parking study memo from Strome dated February 1, 2013 states that the new restaurants opening in the downtown have caused some additional parking issues in that area. Solutions offered were adding public and private parking facilities and changing the valet parking programs presently used by restaurants in the downtown.
Previous to this City Council meeting, on January 25, Ralph Di Bart had sent a frantic memo to the BID board members, including Chuck Strome, which described the parking situation in the BID as "a major problem", a "serious problem" (twice), and "critical", noting "extreme competition for limited parking", that required an "Emergency Study".
The full email follows:
From: Ralph DiBart [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Friday, January 25, 2013 12:30 PM
To: Tarantino, Albert; Chris Selin; Strome, Chuck; Ciro Chechile; Don Powell; Edward Hart; Rattner, Howard; James O'Toole; Joe Apicella; Len Shendell; Marc Jerome; Noah Hager; Robert Kahn
Subject: Restaurants/Parking/Emergency Study
Dear BID Board Members,
As we discussed at our Board meeting, I would periodically keep you apprised as to progress with our various projects.
I have held meetings with a restaurant committee I formed to discuss how the BID could help promote our growing restaurant district. Although I introduced many initiatives, the parking situation resulting from our success in building a restaurant district around Division/Memorial/Main/Huguenot Streets has become a major problem and parking is the only thing that want to discuss. On busy restaurant nights there is extreme competition for limited parking and with no City valet parking regulations, much readily available parking is taken at the expense of customer parking by valet services some individual restaurants have hired.
The restaurants are looking to the BID to help navigate them through this serious problem. I asked the consultants with whom we worked on both our last parking study and on the credit card meters who are therefore current in what is happening with parking downtown, and whose work product I respected, to give me a proposal to assess the issue and help develop recommendations. The agreement is attached.
The cost will be approximately $10,000. I have met with City Manager Chuck Strome and he has agreed to request approval from the City Council that the City split the cost with us.
This is serious problem, which will shortly get much worse; only one of what will ultimately be several large restaurants have opened in this core area and the problem has already become critical. Since we need to address this problem immediately, I am retaining the consultants and will start to work with them next week so we can quickly generate recommendations by the end of February.
Our 2013 Budget includes $20,000 for our Restaurant Program. I will use money from this budget line for this purpose.
DiBart's January 25th email on the dire nature of the parking situation in downtown New Rochelle stands in stark contrast to statements made by DiBart when interviewed for a previous article published on Talk of the Sound, Approval of a New Dormitory for Monroe College in New Rochelle Ignores Parking Issues
On January 29th, the New Rochelle Planning Board approved a five-year-old proposal for a Monroe College dormitory to be built in the downtown area.
At that meeting, Marc Jerome, in his role as Vice President of Monroe College, dismissed concerns about parking in the downtown area. In his role as BID Board Chairman, Jerome had already approved a Parking Study to address what the BID Board was told was a "a major problem" that required an emergency response.
DiBart was also singing a different tune when it came to the Monroe Dorm article.
Reached for comment on January 31st, DiBart said there was no problem with parking at night in the downtown area. He acknowledged there had been some complaints about parking in the restaurant district of New Rochelle over the years with some restaurants employing valet parking services who often use on-street parking spots in or near the restaurant district.
Asked to comment specifically on parking problems in the restaurant district, DiBart said there was no parking problem at night in the downtown area or any particular problems in the restaurant district.
In the course of the City Council discussion on February 12th, Councilman Ivar Hyden raised concerns about events held at Avalon II's "Top of the Rock" catering venue. Hyden noted that on nights when there are events at Top of the Rock, people attending these events park their cars at the library lot but do not appear to be paying to park in the lot.
Hyden told the City Council he had checked and did not see any parking vouchers on these vehicles in the library lot.
In an interview the following day, Hyden was asked whether this might suggest these vehicles were not being ticketed. Hyden said he was not sure what it meant.
Ralph DiBart, Executive Director of the New Rochelle Downtown Business Improvement District, has long expressed concerns about parking in the downtown area.
DiBart was among the leading advocates to eliminate free parking in the municipal lots in the downtown area. At a public meeting to discuss the parking, he described watching as people parked their cars in the Library lots and then walked to the New Roc theaters.
Under the direction of Jerome and DiBart, the New Rochelle BID Board began the move towards changing downtown parking rules in early 2010. A Downtown New Rochelle Parking Task Force presented recommendations to the City Council. They initially recommended to the City Council to extend metered parking on the street from 6 p.m. t o 11 pm with downtown municipal lots going to 24/7 metered parking. The recommendation was changed in April 2010 so that extended street meter parking hours would not change from the 6 p.m. cut-off.
In 2011, at the request of Jerome and DiBart, the City Council approved changes to extended metered parking from 6 pm until midnight. Those changes went into effect on January 1, 2012.
For some residents, the inconsistency in these reports about the parking in downtown is at the least, troubling, and at most, distressing, especially to residents living in or near the downtown area. There are deeper questions about Marc Jerome who, as Monroe Vice President, dismissed concerns about downtown parking when seeking approval for the school's dorm but as BID Board Chairman approved a parking study to address a downtown parking "emergency" that was described as already having become critical.
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