If Parking Fees Are to Increase, They Need to Increase for All
The proposals to increase the cost of parking for commuters by 40%-plus, while completely sparing other users of downtown area and station parking, are deeply disturbing. I can accept a case to raise parking charges given the City’s financial needs and strong demand for parking, particularly if some of the proceeds can be returned in the form of lot improvements. However, the justifications provided for exempting apartment residents (day and night permits) and merchant permits simply do not stand up to analysis – if parking has an elevated value that should be charged to the user, it should be charged to all users. To proceed otherwise is to create a new politically privileged class, at the expense of all other City taxpayers. Many voters opted for a change at the last election out of concern that the prior administration favored a (different) privileged class; I doubt that many of these votes favored creating a new privileged/subsidized class.
The stated justification for not charging merchants fully for parking — “constant pushback from merchants about the high fee, especially when trying to run a business and not being able to find parking” — ignores the reality that parking is as much of a routine cost of doing business as rent and utilities. By reputation, our local landlords do not provide many discounts on rent, nor does Con Ed offer our merchants discounts. Equally, the taxpayer should not be subsidizing parking, especially when some downtown merchants do provide parking for their employees or customers at their own expense. A discount might be appropriate for an assigned remote location, but not in daytime competition for station or general shopping spaces. An incentive to have more employees use public transportation to reach the downtown might in fact be welcome from a policy perspective.
Under the new price schedule, a Highland/Cedar commuter permit holder pays $1,000 for a permit, while an apartment tenant with day/night permit using the same lot pays only $900 – more money for fewer benefits. Either all H/C permits should be issued on a day/night basis (the ability to leave cars overnight for late NYC events or short business trips would be most welcome), or the price should reflect at least some added value for the overnight privilege. The justification provided that “many of the residents renting in the area cannot afford more than this fee” is completely unsupported to my knowledge and fails to reflect the true economics of the rental housing market. Prospective tenants will look at the total cost of rent plus parking in assessing where to live, not just the rent; if parking charges for downtown apartments rise, and other housing options are unchanged, the landlords of parking-deficient accommodations may need to lower rents to find good tenants.
In any event, it is not the City’s job to hand out benefits on the basis of hypothetical financial need (rather than demonstrated need) — in fact, the financial profile of many apartment tenants (no mortgage, no property taxes, middle to middle-plus income) may make them among the most likely to have been Rye’s few winners from last winter’s Federal tax rate changes.
- John Leonard