By Chris Rotolo |
RED BANK – Congested roadways and jam-packed lots would lead one to believe borough businesses are booming, but that sentiment was dismissed at the first of several scheduled meetings about a forthcoming parking study.
In June, the governing body formed a private-public partnership with Red Bank RiverCenter to conduct an 18-week study of the parking inventory in the borough’s commercial business district.
New York City-based Walker Consultants was contracted for $52,350 to produce the report, and representatives of the engineering consulting firm organized a Sept. 24 question, concern and answer session with more than 60 residents and business owners. The gathering scrutinized all aspects of the borough’s parking landscape, from the number of stalls, to the location of the lots and lack of signage.
Walker Consultants Vice President Carolyn H. Krasnow said the goal of the study was to “take a fresh look at the parking system.”
A Bad Reputation
Stakeholders said the stain of inconvenience has severely impacted Red Bank’s reputation and would be difficult to overcome.
“You have Count Basie, Two River Theatre, Bow Tie Cinemas and then all the restaurants in town need to fill up, and they’ve probably added 1,000 seats in the last 10 years,” Teak Restaurant owner George Lyristis said.
“I look out the back of my restaurant on any given night and there can be 25 to 30 cars just circling the White Street lot, looking for a space. They’ll be out there for 15 minutes driving around. It’s not that there isn’t enough parking, it’s that there just isn’t enough convenient parking in town for all the businesses,” he added.
RiverCenter chairman and Cheese Cave owner Steve Catania suggested the borough could implement an organized valet parking effort, which would not only reduce congestion during the peak evening hours, but also generate revenue for the town.
Lyristis noted the lack of signage in Red Bank’s primary White Street parking lot, and believes the area is constantly overrun because those unfamiliar with the borough’s layout are unaware of other options.
“Why can’t we just number them? If this is Lot 6 there must be five others I can go look for,” Lyristis said. “It’s called White Street Lot, because it’s named after so-and-so? He’s dead and gone! We need parking solutions now.”
Stacking Up Against The Competition
Business owners cited the likes of The Grove in Shrewsbury, Pier Village in Long Branch, and the nearby borough of Sea Bright as competition for their own downtown business and entertainment district, and credited those entities for their adequate and convenient parking options and highly visible directions to their various lots.
“You have to understand that our competition doesn’t rely on sending people to park four miles away,” business owner and resident William Meyer said. “We have parking. When we used to have 30,000 to 40,000 people here for fireworks, everyone found parking. Our problem is convenient parking, and businesses are struggling because of it.”
Ingeborg Perndorfer operates The Language School at 69 Broad St., and owns the building her establishment is located in.
Perndorfer said the lack of convenient parking for customers is upsetting, but the shortage of long-term business parking for employees and tenants is even more of a burden, noting that tenants threatened to leave when mandated metered parking was implemented, forcing her to cut rent in half to maintain leaseholders.
“My customers and employees are getting parking tickets and, like other business owners in town going the through the same thing, I have to pay the fines. I can’t ask someone who is making $15 to $20 an hour to pay a $40 parking ticket. And I certainly can’t ask customers and tenants to do it either. It’s unacceptable,” Perndorfer said.
Perndorfer said Red Bank Catholic students and other permit holders are to blame for much of the borough’s lunchtime parking woes. Students who drive to school are provided passes and dominate the majority of the lot’s 273 spaces.
Former council member Cindy Burnham suggested moving all students to the underutilized East Side lots between Mechanic Street and Linden Place.
Resident and mobile developer Steven Sickles said he hopes the study will prompt the borough to embrace technology, in particular an application he developed that would allow visitors to view a comprehensive map of vacant spaces on their mobile devices.
Borough resident Kate Triggiano proposed that Walker Consultants consider the consolidation and strategic placement of parking in order to reclaim public green space for residents, most notably near Marine Park.
Krasnow said research for the study is just beginning, indicating a request from the governing body to delay the work until schools were back in session. Site visits, parking lot monitoring and traffic flow measurements will begin in the following weeks.
Walker Consultants is expected to deliver a draft of the study in December, according to Jim Scavone, RiverCenter executive director.
Online surveys and questionnaires will be administered to residents and business owners and future public meetings will be held, Krasnow said.
Dates and times for those meetings are still to come.
This article was first published in the Sept. 27 – Oct. 3, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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