The Village of Ridgewood has recently dealt with a lot of backlash regarding the limited parking and congested streets in the center of town. With more restaurants and stores moving in, locals and visitors are struggling to find a place to park with ease. Should Ridgewood charge more for the parking spots already available or should they build a multi-million dollar parking garage to combat this problem?
The Hudson Street parking lot closed last August to accommodate for the construction of a municipal parking garage downtown. The four-level, 240-space garage will be built at the corner of Hudson and South Broad streets and is expected to open around June 2020. The parking garage project has been a long time coming for anyone who pays attention to the conversations surrounding downtown Ridgewood. Three years ago, voters overwhelmingly rejected an 11.5 million dollar bond ordinance to fund a larger municipal garage, which would have included 325 parking spaces. The citizens of Ridgewood are split over whether or not the garage will mediate the lack of parking spaces in town or cause an increase in daytrippers, shutting residents out of the parking spaces that they paid for via taxes.
With the new parking garage being built, Ridgewood locals are facing the economic consequences. Eighty-five new smart parking kiosks will replace the village’s traditional meters this winter, and residents will bear the tax burden as the village evaluates ways to fund the kiosks in addition to the Hudson Street parking garage. Parking fees are likely to increase with the kiosks, raising from $1.25 from $0.75 at the beginning of the year.
The village council continues to debate the appropriate charge for parking, and the $0.75 increase is not fully agreed upon but deemed necessary by many Ridgewood officials. While many argue that raising fees will hurt local business, it may be the only feasible way to pay for the Hudson Street garage. In an interview with NorthJersey.com, Deputy Mayor Susan Knudsen said “Everybody went into this eyes wide open, every business knew this going in. Somebody’s got to pay for this garage. We can’t put that genie back in the bottle.”
This fee has not been implemented yet, but some Ridgewood residents are not completely supportive of the increase. RHS senior Andrea Cubrovic argues, “Parking in Ridgewood is already expensive and raising the price may make people less likely to go into town and spend money at local businesses. Restaurants, stores, coffee shops, and more could lose revenue because of this.” Although the expense of the Hudson Street garage must be paid off, many Ridgewood residents are not in favor of having to spend more for the same parking spaces.
Overall, parking in Ridgewood has never been a simple issue. With the limited number of spaces and growing popularity of Ridgewood businesses, it can be challenging to find convenient parking at any time on any given day. Senior Kate Maxwell states, “As a new driver, trying to find a spot to park when I’m going to get food or have to go to town is awful. I sometimes spend more time circling around looking for a spot and walking from my car than actually eating!” Whether the implementation of a garage will fully solve this problem is uncertain, but it is assured that the town has been working diligently to solve this ongoing issue.
Sophie Howard and Kevin Collier
Graphic: Aaron Friedman