Once again, Uptown parking an issue

Ward 2 Alderman Tom Hoffay is calling for the city to address Uptown’s chronic parking shortage, paying for the improvements by installing meters at now-free municipal lots. But Kingston Mayor Shayne Gallo said that he’s opposed to new parking meters and that any discussion of parking lot improvements needed to take municipal lots in Midtown Kingston into account.

Kingston’s Stockade District is a hub of small retail businesses, entertainment venues, professional offices and a few residents in mixed-use buildings. A dearth of parking spaces and competing priorities — workers and residents want all-day parking close to their destination while business owners want to keep spots turning over to make way for customers — have made it a perennial and contentious neighborhood issue. It got worse in 2007 when the city was forced to tear down a crumbling multi-level parking garage on North Front Street and replace it with a single-level open air lot. That lot, and a steep climb uphill climb from Schwenk Drive to North Front Street, is one option for Uptown visitors. The others are metered street-side parking spots and two free municipal lots on either side of North Front Street near Crown Street.

Ward 2 Alderman Tom Hoffay. (Photo by Dan Barton)

Ward 2 Alderman Tom Hoffay. (Photo by Dan Barton)

It is the last option, the free municipal lots, which Hoffay said he wants to address in the Common Council this year.

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“We need to get this into committee and start to talk about it,” said Hoffay. “We need another deck somewhere.”

But creating a new deck above or below ground takes something the city is desperately short on: cash. And Gallo has said that he would object to spending money on the Uptown lots without doing the same for Midtown’s municipal parking lots. Gallo, however, allowed that he might support a capital improvement plan for all city parking lots, similar to a proposed plan to use federal Housing and Urban Development funds to upgrade bathrooms and playgrounds at all city parks.

While Hoffay has said that installing parking meters in the North Front Street lots should at least be part of the discussion about funding the plan, it is not something he sees as absolutely necessary. In fact, Hoffay said, after a conversation with Public Works Superintendent Mike Schupp, he believed Uptown could add a significant number of new parking spaces without building a new garage. According to Hoffay, the Uptown lots could be reconfigured to accommodate about 30 new spaces at a cost of roughly $200,000.

While Hoffay pushes for a solution to the parking crunch, Gallo is restarting the long-delayed process of finding a potential developer for the former site of the Uptown parking garage. Gallo said that the city’s economic development office was putting the final touches on a request for proposals for the site to act as a guideline for developers interested in the parcel. According to Gallo, the document will call for the creation of a mixed residential and commercial site with below-ground parking accessible to residents and the public. A similar RFP put out in 2008 during the Sottile administration failed to get a response.

There are 3 comments

  1. Christopher Williams

    How about focusing on the walkability of the city rather than trying to make it more appealing to motorists? You make a city exciting by making it usable for the people who already live there, not by catering to the perceived needs of the car-dependant tourists. Why are we talking about building some hideous parking structure when we could be talking about infilling the gaps in our urban landscape with multi-use buildings and street level retail? Make Kingston a place where people want to live, not just drive into to shop. We’ll never beat the hideous, strip mall circus in Ulster Park for parking or low prices so we need to focus on walkability and quality of experience!

  2. John Garesche

    Mr. Williams, how can you make uptown more walk-able without parking from where people can leave their cars and walk? If we add more retail and residential (which has been happening organically – and will continue to do so) then more people need to park their cars in order to walk. As it is, parking is often tapped out – so people are less likely to come and walk around uptown as a result. The problem is not critical right now – but the trend of development will result in it becoming worse.

  3. The Red Dog Party

    Both the comments of Mr. Garesche and Williams are valid. A middle ground exists. Unfortunately, traffic patterns encourage bypassing the uptown commercial cluster. Look at Saugerties and Woodstock, where the traffic flows through the commercial district. There’s no shortage of parking (I’ve never had a problem parking there, even during an event filled weekend evening), and plenty of pedestrian traffic. There should be a plan which doesn’t intentionally re-route traffic around city centers. This remnant of so called urban renewal from the sixties and seventies and eighties is an abject failure.

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