A heated battle over two-hour parking signs in Cary Square erupted at the City Council meeting on Monday, and it likely is settled – even after a vote of 2-5 by the Council rejected the placement of the new signs, which were petitioned for by Pan y Cafe business owner and Councillor Roy Avellaneda, as well as some other business owners.
Now, however, the matter might not be over even after the vote killed the measure on Monday night. The problem, Council President Leo Robinson said, was that the vote has to be a majority of the Council rather than a majority of those present. That would mean six votes, and only five voted against it. Councillors Judith Garcia, Paul Murphy and Giovanni Recupero were absent on Monday, and Avellaneda was not allowed to vote on the matter or be present in the room during discussion.
Robinson said Councillor Yamir Rodriguez, who represents Cary Square, has filed a reconsideration of the matter, and Robinson will call for a Special Meeting on May 30 to allow for another vote.
Scores of residents and business owners flooded the Council Chambers on Monday night, some to oppose the restrictions on the eight new two-hour parking signs and some to support them. Avellaneda first brought the idea to the Traffic Commission earlier this year and called for an expansive meter program. He argued that commuters were taking all of the parking in the Square in order to use the 111 bus, which prevented his business and others from using the parking for customers.
The Commission compromised and instituted the eight, two-hour spots on a trial basis through August.
However, many businesses and members of the Cary Square Club were outraged by the development and called on the Council to use a little-known oversight power to reject the Cary Square parking program.
The Commission’s report was approved two weeks ago, but the Cary Square matter was pulled from the report and held over until Monday night.
“There was not an issue there and never has been an issue,” said Karen Moschella of Off Broadway Dance. “No one is parking in Cary Square and taking the bus in. Maybe further up on Washington Avenue, ok, but not here.”
Zaida Ismatul-Oliva, of Spruce Street, said she and her mother opposed the change.
“I find it problematic that we’re now trying to change two-hour parking for one or two businesses int he area when its always been parking for residents,” she said.
Dan Morales, of the Blue Frog Sports Bar in Cary Square, said he likes the idea.
“I’m in favor of the parking restrictions because I think it will help businesses,” he said. “I have personally seen people park and take the bus and take up spots for five or six hours. That limits the amount of business you can do.”
Michael Albano of Willard Street said it was time to make a change to liven up that business district.
“It seems to me the Parking Commission got it right,” he said. “I would like to make Cary Square a place people want to go and make vibrant and a place that businesses can flourish.”
But most councillors did not agree.
Rodriguez said it simply wasn’t the right time given the fact that the Clark Avenue School was under construction and taking up a lot of spaces temporarily.
Councillor Luis Tejada, whose district is nearby, was also in agreement, saying that some 15 or more spaces are taken up at the Clark Avenue project, forcing residents to push parking into the Square.
“I’m not in favor of this because it’s just not the right timing,” Rodriguez said. “We have a lot of projects going on right now and it’s pushing the parking issue to other places. We need to wait until that is finished and we should solve the parking issue another way. Two hour parking is not the solution.”
Councillor Dan Cortell, however, agreed with the issue. Living on Admiral’s Hill, he said he rarely visits Cary Square because it is too complicated to get to and park.
“I think the Parking and Traffic Commission got it right,” he said. “They did compromise. It was on a trial basis until August…The Traffic Commission meetings were well attended…They chose a compromise. I’m in favor of the compromise.”
When the vote came down, it was a decided loss, at 2-5. Cortell was joined by Councillor Matt Frank in voting for the change.
However, the next day it was discovered that to use the oversight of the Traffic Commission, and reject one of their measures, requires a majority of the Council – or six votes. With only five votes, Rodriguez took action to call the Council back to perform another vote with more members present.
On Wednesday, that meeting was expected to happen on May 30.