Parking enforcement issues addressed at Warwick Village meeting

07 Apr 2016 | 06:44

By Roger Gavan
— The Village of Warwick's two Parking Enforcement Officers, John Leardini and Christopher DiMauro, began patrolling and ticketing vehicles for parking violations in the downtown area on Friday, March 18.
And to say there's been quite an outcry from those who were ticketed, especially in the CVS parking lot, would be an understatement.
On Monday, April 4, about seven people, mostly business owners, attended a village meeting to voice their concerns, pro and con.
The most contentious issue was about the tickets that were issued to those people who park in the CVS lot closest to Main Street.
The village has an agreement with CVS that as long as it reserved the spots closest to the front doors of the store for CVS customers, the rest of their parking area could be used as a village parking lot.
The section with 78 spots closest to Main Street has a three-hour limit; the section near Spring Street has 38 spots has a 12-hour limit.
There is also a municipal parking area along Spring Street and across from Fratello Restaurant and another area near Wheeler Avenue with 12-hour limits.
For those who commute to New York City via New Jersey Transit, there is a large free lot with 227 parking spots at County Park below Hickory Hill Golf Course.
And there are permit spots in the Chase parking lot just off South Street.
They do cost $200 per year but provide parking all day Monday to Friday.
On weekends, the Chase lot has 80 free spots.
"When we hired the Parking Enforcement Officers they were instructed to write tickets for expired meters and to chalk tires in the three-hour parking areas and write tickets for those who stayed too long," explained Village Trustee Eileen Patterson. "We've recently learned that the police hadn't made it a practice to write tickets in the CVS lot because it's not listed in the village code as a village lot.
"After conferring with our attorney and legal counsel from the New York Council of Mayors," Patterson added, "we have confirmed that we are within our rights, based on the agreement we have with CVS, to write those tickets. We've scheduled a public hearing for April 18 to include that lot in our Village code."

Reaction from the street
Not everyone who attended the April 4 meeting was happy with that explanation.
"My entire staff received tickets on the first day of the enforcement," said Adam Powers, owner of Fetch Restaurant and two other businesses on Main Street. "I have mixed feelings but I employ over 50 people who need parking."
However, he can see the logic of enforcing parking regulations to keep things moving, thereby freeing the limited number of parking spots for shoppers and other visitors. And anyone driving around the village today can see the improvement. But he feels there was a lack of communication and advance notice and that the way things were handled has made people angry.
"I just saw three guys on the street angrily waving their tickets," said Powers.
The Parking Enforcement Officers are often the target of that anger and subject to verbal abuse.
"They're nice guys just doing their job," said Powers, "and they're being treated like they made the law."
Improvement
Corrine Iurato, manager of Peck's Wines and Spirits, has observed a remarkable improvement in the South Street parking lot next to her business.
"People used to park here for eight or ten hours every day, taking away a spot for a shopper or anyone making a short visit," she said. "I think parking enforcement has been a great idea."
'Wrong message, bad image'
Christie Ranieri, co-owner of the nearby Tuscan Café, is not so positive.
She believes the new policy has had an impact on the impression that visitors have of Warwick, and she submitted a letter on that subject to the Village Board.
Ranieri mentioned that visitors feel at home when they see that the citizens and the police are on friendly terms and that the police would often pop into her restaurant to ask who was parked by an expired meter before issuing a ticket. But she believes that has all changed.
"A man from Georgia," she mentioned, "received a parking ticket. By the time he returned from Village Hall to pay the fine there was another waiting on the windshield."
Chief: Village employees, not police personnel
Warwick Police Chief Thomas McGovern, however, cautions that although his department has been fielding complaints, his officers are not involved in this latest ticket blitz.
"The new Parking Enforcement Officers are not employees of the Town of Warwick Police Department," he said. "Their only charge is to enforce parking regulations within the village."
Although many of the merchants tend to benefit from the enforcement of those parking regulations, Tom Roberts, owner of Ye Olde Warwick Book Shoppe and president of the Warwick Merchant Guild, is not fully in support of the recent actions.
"I'm concerned that we are sending the wrong message and creating a bad image," he said.
Roberts believes the three-hour CVS parking limit and the metered parking limits should be extended.
"We have visitors," he added, "who come to browse in our shops and perhaps go to a restaurant. Three hours may not be long enough."
John Christison, owner of Yesterdays, one of the oldest businesses on Main Street, took the opposite side of the debate at the Village meeting.
He points to the fact that there is ample 12 hour parking at the bottom of the CVS lot and even all day parking in the municipal lot on Spring Street.
"Employees are just reluctant to walk a little further," he said. "It's human nature. People go to a gym and spend an hour walking on a treadmill but then they want to be as close as possible to their cars."
Christison has his staff park in the municipal lot on Spring Street and he also rents a few spots behind Newhard's. He doesn't believe having his staff walk a short distance to work has been an extraordinary burden.
"I've been here over 30 years," he said. "And parking in the Village has always been a problem."