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