City still pushing parking meter price hike in Slope

Muni meters click in on 86th
The Brooklyn Paper / Jeff Bachner

Park Slope community leaders continue to slam the brakes on a scheme that would jack up the price of parking in the spot-challenged neighborhood by a whopping 33 percent, and stretch the hours when those rates are in effect.

Last week, Community Board 6 tabled the two most contentious aspects of a plan to extend “Park Smart,” a controversial city initiative that frees up parking spaces by making it pricier to park during peak hours, from noon to 4 pm.

The program, launched in May 2009, raised parking rates to $1.50 an hour along Fifth Avenue between Sackett and Third streets, and Seventh Avenue between Lincoln Place and Sixth Street.

The city now wants to hike the price to $2.25, and extend the “peak” hours until 9 pm.

But CB6 tabled both moves amid “some disagreement,” said Tom Miskel, chairman of the Transportation Committee.

Parking in the neighborhood has long been an asphalt conundrum, but the Department of Transportation said that its pilot program has proven that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

And it is already bearing fruit — well, spaces.

An April study found that Park Smart has discouraged “meter feeding,” helping more drivers find parking spots, which have turned over at a greater rate since the program’s inception.

With this data in mind, the city aims to expand the program: south to 15th Street on both Seventh and Fifth avenues; north on Fifth Avenue to Dean Street; to Ninth Street between Fourth and Sixth avenues.

At its Sept. 15 meeting at Long Island College Hospital, the Board 6 voted to support the new boundaries; to extend peak pricing from noon-4 pm to noon to 7 pm; and to change meter regulations from one hour to two hour stays at locations to be decided.

But the more controversial matters were tabled as merchants fear too much of a good thing.

“The current changes have alleviated the parking problem,” insisted Jo-Ann Kalb, owner of Park Slope Copy Center on Seventh Avenue between President and Carroll streets.

Kalb said she does not favor an extension of hours. “Most of the businesses here are closed by seven o’clock,” she noted.

But what’s good for one avenue might not be good for another.

Fifth Avenue restaurateur Irene Lo Re, who heads up that avenue’s business improvement district, said she favors the extended hours because of the area’s booming nightlife.

“This keeps the spots rotating,” Lo Re noted. “It benefits someone coming to dinner.”

Business leaders are working with the city to craft a compromise.

“We don’t want to extend the hours [beyond 7 pm], but we have an obligation to make sure that parking is turning over more quickly,” said Mitch Szpicek, president of the Park Slope Chamber of Commerce. “We want more ‘muni-meters’ because that means [physically] more spots.”

The agency said it plans to begin the program’s expansion with the installation of new “no-arm bandits” next spring.

Raising meter prices might be a boon to the city, but merchants agree: it will be a bust for shoppers and business owners.

“It’s just a way for the city to make money,” Kalb charged.