By Seth Daniel
After having voted down a two-hour parking proposal for Cary Square on the May 22 City Council meeting – yet not having enough votes to deny it according to the City Charter – the Council re-assembled on Tuesday night, May 30, to give it one more try.
And the result was the same, except this time the measure – championed by Pan Y Cafe owner Councillor Roy Avellaneda and some other business leaders in the Square – was defeated 7-2.
Those voting to keep the measure were Councillor Matt Frank and Dan Cortell. Councillor Avellaneda had recused himself from the proceedings due to his financial interest, and Councillor Recupero was absent again from the meeting.
Those voting to rescind the Traffic Commission’s two-hour parking plan – for eight total spots – in the Square were Councillors Damali Vidot, Luis Tejada, Enio Lopez, Judith Garcia, Leo Robinson, Yamir Rodriguez and Paul Murphy.
The matter was believed to be done and finished on May 22 after a heated meeting that drew scores of residents commenced, and a vote of 5-2 ended the matter.
However, the next day it was discovered that a Traffic Commission decision had to be overturned by a majority vote of the Council, meaning at least six votes were required. Councillor Rodriguez immediately filed reconsideration of the matter, and since there was a time limit to addressing the matter within 30 days, Council President Robinson called the Special Emergency Meeting for this Tuesday.
The rules were explained and both Frank and Cortell questioned if it was appropriate. After explaining all of the logistics, with everyone satisfied, the final vote took place.
The meeting lasted about 10 minutes.
The Tuesday meeting was just a continuation of two previous, heated meetings about the issue – as well as some heated Traffic Commission meetings earlier in the year.
On May 22, scores of residents and business owners flooded the Council Chambers, 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 many 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 in the 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.
Councillor 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 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 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.”
In the end, the Council prevailed in rescinding the two-hour parking, and there was no apparent appeal effort or alternative plan being proposed.