The Benjamin Center at SUNY New Paltz hosted an event, “Parking: Cars in Communities,” on Wednesday, Nov. 13 to discuss growing issues with parking in communities around New York.
The purpose of this event was to hear from different city planners and experts on parking to get ideas for changes that could be made in New Paltz.
The event was hosted by Scott Le Vine, assistant professor and urban planner at SUNY New Paltz, and the featured panelists included Luiz Aragon, development commissioner for New Rochelle, Braley Birge, administrator of planning and economic development for Saratoga, Alexandra Church, director of planning and development for Newburgh and Mike Flynn, director of city strategies at Sam Schwartz Engineering.
“Parking is a very salient issue in New Paltz. Our Mayor’s here and he says it’s the topic that makes everyone miserable,” said Associate Director of the Benjamin Center and Deputy Mayor for the Village of New Paltz Kathleen Tobin. “We don’t want to think about things from just one perspective, we want to make sure that people who are addressing these issues and care about these issues not just are geographically diverse but also different perspectives, different priorities.”
New Paltz is unique in that it has one major road that runs through town. This road was originally built for horses and carriages, which now causes congestion problems as cars try to fit on these narrow built roads.
Each panelist presented their findings on parking and how their city or organization has made improvements when it comes to parking.
Birge offered many solutions that the City of Saratoga has created to fix their parking problems, such as moving from metered to free parking to compete with a nearby mall’s free parking, creating diagonal parking to fit more spaces than parallel parking, starting a free trolley system, and building two story parking garages that fit in with the architecture of the city.
“Parking problems can either be a symbol of your success or a symptom of something to come in the future,” Birge said.
Another goal of this event was to discuss decreasing the carbon footprint that gasoline powered vehicles can leave.
“We also want to be responsible about climate change and be a part of the solution that reduces our dependency on cars. But it’s really hard to be forward thinking and do what we need to do today in ways that work for now and ways that are also going to work in the future,” Tobin said. “The biggest thing that I want to learn is how can we create change now that makes this issue something that makes people less miserable, but also is very forward thinking about what the future holds.”
According to Le Vine, four out of every five journeys Americans make are by car. Cars are the main mode of transportation and parking is needed before and after each car journey made, making parking a very relevant and necessary topic to discuss.
Le Vine presented an app, Coord, which “digitizes street infrastructure” and can tell the user where parking is available and what the rules and regulations are for that specific parking spot. Apps like this would eliminate the extra toxins released by a vehicle when the driver is searching for parking, and it would eliminate much of the confusion caused by differing parking rules.
Marco Lopez, a third-year business analytics major and commuter student at SUNY New Paltz, said “I try not to drive through town unless I have to. I usually don’t park in town because my parallel parking skills are less than stellar and I never know where I’m allowed to park.”
At the end of the event, a question and answer section was held where attendees could ask the panelists more specific questions.
During this section of the event, Mayor of New Paltz Tim Rogers said “we’re a village trapped in a city. We’re constantly being asked to solve city problems with no resources.”
However, one solution Rogers suggested was that he has been working with a developer to possibly create affordable housing and a hotel in downtown New Paltz. This would mean a decrease in parking issues and car congestion because people wouldn’t need to drive if they lived closer to where they worked.
While there are currently no set plans to aide in the parking problems in New Paltz, events and discussions like this one give community members and local officials ideas of what kind of changes could be made.