Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Increased parking meter rates and fines coming to Peekskill

Prices+will+be+increasing+for+parking+after+the+Common+Council+votes+on+Monday%2C+March+25.+%28Photo+by+Regina+Clarkin%29+
Prices will be increasing for parking after the Common Council votes on Monday, March 25. (Photo by Regina Clarkin)

Peekskill’s Common Council is poised to adopt new public parking fines and meter rate increases at the March 25 meeting. Highlights include fines for Double-Parked and Parked on Sidewalk going from $75 to $125 (previously proposed at $100), Fire Zones/Hydrant and Commercial Vehicles Overnight Parking, and Winter Emergency – No Parking from $100 to $200 (previously proposed at $150), and Handicapped Parking from $150 to $300 (instead of the proposed $200).  The current rates were adopted between 2007 and 2014. 

Mayor Vivian McKenzie noted that if the council passes a resolution on these increases, parking fines will go into effect almost immediately but it would take around three months for the implementation of meter rate increases due to the software company needing to update the software and test it for accuracy. 

The decision to increase rates came after three key points. 

First, a presentation by Comptroller Toni Tracy on Feb. 26, which noted that the city’s two parking garages require $2.5 million in repairs and improvements, and that parking fines and meter rates have not changed since 2014 and 2015, respectively. (At the Feb. 26 meeting the council requested revision to some of the proposed fine increases based on the severity and commonness of the violations). 

Second, a public hearing on March 11 where four downtown business owners spoke against the increases. 

Third, a second presentation by Tracy at the March 18 council meeting, addressing the concerns raised at the public hearing. Tracy said that the city will be hiring a parking enforcement officer in the next few weeks and the Department of Public Works is working on fixing broken meters.

At the March 11 public hearing, Tracy noted that the proposed parking meter and fine increases are projected to generate at least $400,000 in additional annual revenue, and would help fund capital repairs and improvements required at the city’s two parking garages. She also noted that city staff had analyzed meter rates from surrounding communities; Peekskill’s rates were often lower. “We’re proposing a $1.00 to a $1.25 increase, and the other communities range between $1.50 as up to $4.00 an hour,” said Tracy. The Herald asked Tracy for information on the comparison cities, but Tracy did not respond to this request. 

The owners of four downtown businesses spoke against the proposed parking rate and fine increases. 

Restaurant owner John Sharp (of Birdsall House, Gleason’s, and The Central) said the meter rate increases could affect business owners. Instead Sharp suggested the city look at companies like Electrify America, which installs electric vehicle  charging infrastructure in municipalities. (The Electrify America initiative stemmed from Volkswagen’s settlement with the U.S. and California governments for violating the Clean Air Act.) By adding more electrical vehicle charging stations, Sharp says more people will come into the city to charge, and after they are done might be enticed to visit the city.

(At the Feb. 13 Common Council meeting, council members unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the city manager to enter into agreements with INF Associates Inc. for the design and installation of 32 FLO level 2 fast-charging electric vehicle charging stations, without any final cost to the city. The locations for these chargers are: James Street Garage, 8 stations; Lot K, 4 stations; Lot 4 at Central Avenue, 10 stations; and Riverfront Green Park, 10 stations.)

“I just think that there are other ways for us to balance these books to get these things fixed [city garages], to raise money, then on the backs of people coming in to shop here, eat here. We’re trying to compete against these towns that don’t charge,” said Sharp.

(Cities similar to Peekskill, like Ossining and Cold Spring, do charge for parking.)  

In regard to parking fines, Sharp said he was all for increases, but added that double parking should be four times the proposed fine (currently $75, proposed to increase to $100), calling it an ‘epidemic’ in the city.

Parking meters on Central Avenue. (Photo by Regina Clarkin)

Drew Claxton of Kissam Road and co-owner of the Bean Runner, was also opposed to the increases, even though she acknowledged a lot of work needs to be done on the city garages. Her reasoning was that it could be difficult to get people downtown. Claxton said she believes the increases in meter rates are unjustified, especially for people who legally park. She recommended the city address illegal parking throughout the city first, then determine if meter rate increases are necessary.

Claxton also suggested the city hire someone to direct traffic to less congested parking areas.​ This would help when the downtown is busy. She added that the city should look into putting up a lighted parking sign on the side of the James Street parking garage and at the entryway, to let people know there is available parking. 

Sunny Cover, owner of Peekskill Coffee House, also emphasized the need for signage. She is also opposed to the meter rate increase. Cover agreed that more enforcement of parking fines for double parking in Peekskill should be in place. She acknowledged that her clients are responsible for the double parking near her business, stating that they do it because they can get away with it.

“I can’t go out there and give them a ticket myself. If there is an event at Assumption, forget about it. And if you have Assumption and the Paramount happening at the same time, it is a real mess.” She said all police officers should ticket all double parked cars, recalling an instance when she noticed a foot patrol officer walk by two double parked cars and not give any ticket.

(In regard to the need for more signage, at the Feb. 20 Common Council meeting, City Planner Peter Erwin gave an update on all of Peekskill’s DRI projects. In it he discussed the city’s Wayfinding project, which has $290,000 in DRI funding. The Wayfinding project is a signage program which will be created to assist visitors in navigating Peekskill’s diverse points of interest for vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians. More information here.)

Pat Neville, owner of Whiskey River on N. Division St, agreed that the city should go after parking violations first before increasing meter rates. He said fine increases can get rid of double parking. He added that the city will also see more people come into town, stating there are people who will not come into Peekskill solely because of double parking.

 

About the Contributor
Peekskill native Jeffrey Merchan is a 2022 graduate of Peekskill High School. He is the Collegiate Journalist at Peekskill Herald, funded by a grant from the DJ McManus Foundation. He is currently enrolled at Westchester Community College where he is studying journalism. As the inaugural recipient of the McManus grant, he will be covering city government, schools and feature stories with a focus on Peekskill’s growing Hispanic community.