It’s a classic City Hall mystery: Why does something so seemingly simple take so long to get done?
The latest from the files of bureaucratic inertia is not your typical tale of disagreement derailing progress. There wasn’t a vocal uprising in opposition or even, really, a peep of public concern.
Yet a proposal to scale back alternate side parking on four streets surrounding Elmwood Avenue seemed stuck in neutral for months. Shop owners wondered what was taking so long. With construction nearing on two privately owned parking lots in the neighborhood, the impact on business was about to become acute.
“There was basically no movement on it forever,” said Edward Pinkel, owner of Urban Threads on Elmwood Avenue.
And then, last week, the paperwork needed to change the daytime parking rules on some nearby side streets to alleviate parking pressures in the Elmwood Village finally sprang free. The Common Council will take the final steps on Tuesday to advance the new parking rules on a few blocks of West Ferry, Lafayette, Ashland and Norwood.
The idea is a simple solution to an enduring parking problem. Elmwood gets mobbed on a busy summer day. Most streets nearby, meanwhile, restrict parking to one side from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
So about five years ago, Pinkel floated an idea. Why not scale back those side-street restrictions to open up more parking? Despite support, the proposal didn’t gain serious traction until a year ago, when the owners of a private parking lot on Elmwood decided to develop the land. It was clear the parking puzzle was about to get much, much tougher.
A proposal was put forth to allow parking on some side streets as early as noon in the warmer months when snowplows aren’t an issue.
And then, Elmwood businesses waited. And waited. Almost a year went by.
Nobody seemed outwardly opposed. Council Member Michael LoCurto was on board. The Elmwood Village Association advocated for the changes. A survey showed widespread support among the residents.
Meanwhile, City Hall lived up to its red-tape reputation.
Neighborhood parking might sound like small potatoes when you think of big projects mired in inertia – the Peace Bridge, the outer harbor, the Robert Moses Parkway. But it’s the kind of city service that can make or break small businesses, even in a vibrant neighborhood.
Peter Savage, the city’s deputy corporation counsel, disputes the idea that it took a long time to push through the Elmwood parking changes.
“We’ve learned from experience, whenever you make changes to parking, you really need to do your due diligence,” Savage said. The city needed to vet it with multiple departments – from public works to police – to ensure it wouldn’t have any unintended consequences.
And he notes that even if it was completed earlier, the changes wouldn’t have been applicable until spring, since the new parking rules will only be in effect from April to November. “What we were most concerned about is that we got the outcome right,” Savage said.
The city was right to do due diligence. But a year? That’s way more dawdling than was due.
On a personal note, this will be my last column for a while. I’ll be on a hiatus while my husband and I welcome a new addition to our family.