Irvington’s Quest for an Equitable Parking Solution Continues

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by Barrett Seaman – 

This issue starts and ends on one point: there are not enough parking spaces in the Village of Irvington—or as Village Administrator Larry Schopfer puts it, “The inventory is there, but not always where people want it.’

Once in a decade or so, the village attempts a solution. This time, trustees have charged into the parking jungle and emerged with what is widely appreciated as an admirable re-formulation. But judging from the reaction at the opening public hearing on the proposal, they’re probably not there yet.

Metaphors abounded during the November 19 hearing. Mayor Brian Smith warned at the outset that new rules have “a whack-a-mole effect in that whatever you change here causes a problem there.”  One resident employed the ever-popular “squeezing the balloon” metaphor to illustrate the same phenomenon: push back against the problem in one place and it just shows up in another.

The new plan’s central building blocks, broadly speaking, are not controversial: general parking, heretofore allowed for up to six hours (with exceptions) would be reduced to two hours, thus generating more turnover (hence more business) in the Main Street business district. As a countervailing force, permit holders would be allowed to park on the side streets at any time—with exceptions.

A full examination of the new proposal would take up great swaths of this newspaper, since, at the risk of employing yet another metaphor, the devil is in the details. But first, a primer on how the village is laid out: Main Street, which runs from Broadway down to the Metro North tracks, is Irvington’s spinal chord. Its side streets (ribs if you will) ascend alphabetically from the west (Astor, Buckout, Cottenet…on up through Home Place).

For the most part, these side streets, both north and south of Main, are residential. Some homes have driveways and/or garages but most do not. Since the early 2000s, the village has issued residential parking permits ($25.00 annually) so that residents without driveways can park near their homes. Under the new plan, they would face competition from employees of Main Street businesses, as the village would award a maximum of two side street permits per business. That, in theory, would relieve demand for spaces in the village’s two municipal parking areas.

While there may yet be public resistance to that part of the plan, the real zone of contention lies in the streets nearest the Metro North station. The MTA has reserved 258 places requiring separate permits (at over $530 a year), plus some metered parking spaces for commuters. Even Mayor Smith is on a long waiting list for a Metro North permit. As a result, non-permit holding commuters prowl the lower alphabet streets (particularly Buckout and Cottenet), looking for spaces meant for residents. Then there are the day-trippers who may want to spend a few hours in Manhattan and want to park near the station. The new plan gives them six-hour parking on Buckout and Cottenet Streets, without a permit.

While good news for day-trippers who live beyond the confines of the village, that provision is not sitting well with the locals. No sooner does Buckout resident Kate Krahl climb into her car to go on a morning errand than another driver pounces on her space. “I come home,” she says, “and I can’t find a spot.” Her neighbor, Arthur Segreti, warned against the six-hour exception: “You’re creating a commuter parking lot if you do that,” he told the board.

In fact, another commuter parking lot (or garage) would go a long way toward alleviating the problem, but the MTA controls station parking. The reality is, there is no more open space for parking—unless of course, the expansion is up instead of out. Under current village law, however, such parking structures are prohibited.

Public hearings will continue.

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