Newark City Council discusses parking shortage concerns
Due to the ongoing construction on Main Street and the recently approved creation of a new Hyatt Hotel, the City of Newark predicts a possible loss of up to 252 parking spaces, causing a potential revenue loss of $385,000 for the city government.
Newark is currently looking at solutions to avoid this “inventory reduction.”
The proposed solutions include the placement of 80 temporary parking meters on Delaware Avenue, whilst still retaining one lane traffic and the bike lane there. However, the temporary parking meters may also extend to some side streets like Haines Street, Lovett Street, Center Street and North Chapel Street.
This gives way to a new problem, directly affecting all members of the Newark community, including the university’s students: the loss of free residential parking for those living on these side streets due to the temporary parking meters.
The City Council met on April 29 to discuss what would be most effective and in the best interest of not only Newark, but students in surrounding areas and Main Street businesses, who are currently being adversely affected by Main Street construction. The initial proposal to push Delaware Avenue as the main site for temporary parking was met with concern from citizens attending the meeting.
Meghan Mullennix, a junior history and political science double major from Annapolis, Md. and a Governmental Affairs Senator for the Student Government Association, attended the meeting and voiced her concerns.
“The proposal to add temporary parking to Delaware Avenue […] was of dubious safety to cars, pedestrians, and bikers,” she stated in an email to The Review. “The plan to add meters to Haines, Lovett, Center Street, and North Chapel is very inconsiderate of student residents and places the burden of offsetting the parking shortage solely on us.”
She noted that turning these side streets into hubs for temporary parking may force students currently parking outside their homes with claims to free residential parking “elsewhere or forced to pay a great deal in their own front yard.”
James Horning Jr., the Council Member for District 1, said he has taken these student worries into consideration, as well as another concern voiced by university professor John Morgan during the meeting: how young women may want or need to park closer to their homes for safety reasons.
If the utilization of side streets is unavoidable, Horning means to address the unease young women may feel parking further away from their homes by suspending the meters after a certain hour to reduce cost on residents.
Another option could involve the city working with the university to provide temporary parking on South Campus by the Field House.
Alexandra Curnyn, a sophomore communications major from Somers, N.Y., will be living on Haines Street next fall.
“Hearing about this proposition is discouraging and honestly makes me reconsider the location where I chose to live,” she said. “I picked my townhouse not only because of its proximity to both classes and to Main Street, but also because of its free parking that is included with the cost of rent.”
Some students also worry that added parking costs could exacerbate minor everyday inconveniences — routine events, like carrying groceries inside, general errand running or having to walk further to one’s car during inclement weather.
“If I had to walk to my car further than anticipated next year or have to start paying for parking, I not only would lose a lot of the value I find from living on East campus, but I would also strongly consider moving elsewhere for my senior year,” Curnyn said.
Mullennix challenged the City’s proposals as well. She believes that if the Hyatt hotel is worth losing those one hundred spots, then students should be worth the retention of their side street spots.
“Ultimately, if the parking situation is truly critical, why did the City just approve the Lang hotel project which will take away over a hundred spots from Main Street at the same time as the construction, literally doubling the problem?” Mullenix said.
Horning intends to return to City Council with more of a “hybrid approach” — wherein Delaware Avenue and side streets are both used. He doesn’t want to take Delaware Avenue completely off the table, due to the amount of parking spots it can provide for the City.
As of yet, the proposal would turn Delaware Avenue into a one-lane street for vehicles while retaining the bike lane and possibly adding reflective poles to buffer the line between cars and bikes.
Horning also proposed reducing the number of freshmen bringing a car to campus by half — not including those requiring a vehicle for sanctioned medical reasons. He has been discussing this idea with the university’s manager of community relations and special events, Caitlin Olsen, noting that even a reduction of 50 cars would have a significant impact.
The parking inventory reduction solutions are still very much in progress, and City Council will be meeting again on May 13 to reevaluate. However, Horning seems optimistic there is a compromise for everyone involved.
“This is one of those situations where it affects everyone in our community, including our students,” Horning said. “It’s one of those times where everyone may have to have a little added inconvenience, but just for that critical six month period. We should be much better off afterwards — the last I heard, this is a project that we may only have to do every 50 years or so.”