By Ray Smith | HudsonReporter.com
City working on related agreement with food truck owners
The installation of multi-space meters in Hoboken won’t just change the way motorists pay for parking. When the new meters are installed, a long-ignored law that restricts parking at any meter in the city for more than two hours will now be enforced. The city says they believe that it is mainly employees of city businesses who are feeding the meters all day, and that enforcing the law will free up more parking for visitors and for customers of local businesses. The city is suggesting that people who need to park for more than two hours can take advantage of various promotions to use city garages (see sidebar).
Meanwhile, a group of food truck owners are concerned that they may be run out of town by the two-hour limit, and they are working with the city to try and implement exceptions to the rule.
Some of Hoboken’s food truck operators park in metered spaces, sometimes for the entire workday.
They also have the option of parking in any areas with permit parking, as long as they pay for a city business parking permit. In that case, they could park on one side of most city streets all day long. But some food trucks and delivery trucks like to park in certain areas, for instance, in front of their store (if they have one). Many of the heaviest traveled areas downtown have metered parking.
A city spokesperson said last week that the city is in the process of trying to work out an agreement that would ease restrictions on the vendors.
“What choice do I have? This is how I feed my family.” – Sayed “Ali” Gomah, food truck operator
The new meters will not be installed in places where there was no metered parking before, according to city officials. As of last week, the city had installed 100 of the 140 planned multi-space meters, according to Juan Melli, the city’s communication director.
Food trucks will be ticketed if they park for more than two hours at the meter, just like everyone else, unless a new agreement is reached.
“All vehicles are expected to abide by rules established by the city code,” Melli said in an email. “During the past few months, the city has been coordinating with various stakeholders, including brick-and-mortar restaurant owners, food truck owners, and residents to develop specific regulations for mobile food vendors.”
Some business owners have complained that the food trucks take away their customers without the overhead cost of paying rent and property taxes in the city. Instead, food truck vendors pay fees for various permits, as well as hundreds of quarters per year for meters.
“The city has been monitoring feedback received from the community in the form of letters, emails, and social media, and taking all the input into consideration as we develop the legislation,” Melli said.
One food truck vendor, Sayed “Ali” Gomah, worries that the enforcement of the rule could end his livelihood if no amendment is made. His food truck, called “Ali” Food on Wheels, sells breakfast and lunch, including egg sandwiches and meatball subs.
Gomah said he has been coming to Hoboken, parking at Newark and River streets for the past 17 years, and has never had a problem.
“It wouldn’t be fair to pull the rug out from under us,” Gomah said. “I pay my permit fees, I clean the spot when it snows, and I know everybody around here. I follow the rules, and I’m just trying to protect my livelihood.”
When asked what he would do if food truck drivers were only allowed to park for two hours at meters, he said he would continue to do business here.
“I’m in it for the long haul,” Gomah said. “What choice do I have? This is how I feed my family. I don’t have any other options. I can’t take public transportation.”
Gomah travels every day from East Brunswick to his favorite parking spot.
One of Ali’s customers, Tim, who only provided his first name, said he goes to the truck for the convenience and said the prices are “generally cheaper.” Tim said he would be upset to see food truck vendors fall victim to the parking rules.
“The real issue is there’s not enough parking, period,” Tim said.
Parking and Transportation Director Ian Sacs hopes that with the enforcement of the once-ignored law, parking will be freed up along Washington Street and other commercial areas, which will make parking easier for visitors and shoppers.
The operators of the Indian Grill, parked on Sinatra Drive near Second Street, said through a translator that they haven’t received any warnings or notices about parking at a metered area all day, but had heard of the new enforcement. One employee at the Indian Grill said that he noticed many cars feeding the meters all day, parking from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sinatra Drive. The two operators of the Indian Grill did not seem worried about the new law.
When the issue was first introduced, the enforcement of the law received the backing of Michael Novak, who is the president of the Chamber of Commerce in Hoboken, since it will result in more spaces becoming available for visiting customers.
The parking ordinances in the city are passed by the City Council, and then enforced by the Hoboken Parking Utility and the Hoboken Police Department.
An amendment to the parking code, involving food trucks, is expected to go before the City Council in the near future.
Ray Smith may be reached at RSmith@hudsonreporter.com
Alternatives for drivers; why switch to multi-space meters?
The Parking Utility is offering motorists a merchant coupon, which is a free permit that allows employees to park in a municipal garage for a total of $5 for 12 hours, which is cheaper than feeding the meter for eight hours. However, the municipal garages are only downtown and not uptown. Sacs said earlier in the year that the city is currently trying to establish a public/private partnership with private garages uptown for space.
The new multi-space meters allow drivers to use credit, debit, and smartcards, meaning motorists will not need to always carry a pocket full of quarters when they park. Melli said that through the first few months of the meters, 40 percent of the transactions were not made with quarters.
The new meters will also provide more accountability, Melli said, providing “to-the-penny” audit reports.
That’s significant, because in 2009, millions of quarters were reported missing, which led to the indictment of the former parking director, John Corea, on charges that he conspired to steal more than $600,000 in parking meter revenue. Corea has yet to be tried almost two years after his indictment.
The meters also provide “more efficient use of on-street parking space,” Melli said.
“With multi-space meters, if several shorter vehicles park on a block, you will be able to fit an additional two or three vehicles on the same block,” he said.
The meters are also solar-powered, eliminating the city’s cost of up to $10,000 per year in batteries.
Some of the meter poles will be retrofitted as bike racks, Melli said.
As far as delivery vehicles that park on Washington Street, Sacs has said that the city is encouraging businesses to utilize bike deliveries.