It’s 3 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11 in Kingston’s bustling Uptown business district and the question on everyone’s mind is, “Where can I park again?”
The snow emergency issued in response to a Monday storm ended 7 p.m. Tuesday evening. Flyers posted on car windows, posts on the city’s website and alerts sent out via an automated text messaging system have warned that cars left in municipal lots after 7 p.m. Wednesday will be towed so crews can clear snow. (On Tuesday morning, a DPW worker had told one of the Ulster Publishing editors who was parking his car that vehicles needed to be out 7 a.m. Wednesday, as opposed to 7 p.m., causing even more confusion.)
But on Wednesday afternoon, a city Department of Public Works employee is walking along Uptown streets sticking no-parking signs into snow banks next to the parking meters. The signs are the first inkling for most Uptowners that DPW crews plan to clear the three parking lots and some streets … simultaneously.
A quick check of the city’s website reveals a detail added since the flyers went out Tuesday afternoon: Snow will be removed from Wall Street between Pearl and North Front on Thursday. The post makes no mention of parking on North Front or Crown streets where the same signs have been posted warning against on-street parking. So, if you can’t park in the municipal lot after seven and you can’t park on the streets …
“Don’t park in a spot that has a sign in front of it,” offers one DPW employee. “That’s the best I can tell you.”
Parking is always a hassle in the Uptown business district where thousands of residents, office workers and visitors vie for scarce spots each day. But the recent spate of snow emergencies, and what many here perceive as an ever-changing routine of driving parkers from the streets to the lots and back, has amped up the frustration level.
“I’ve had a customer get a ticket [for parking on the street in a snow emergency] with two inches of snow on the ground and it seems to change every time,” said Rich Reeve, owner of The Elephant tapas bar on Wall Street. “It’s a business district — they need to have a consistent plan.”
During snow emergencies, when parking on the streets is banned to make way for plowing, Uptown residents flock to municipal lots on North Front Street and Schwenk Drive. When the emergency ends, they have to get out of the lots and back on the streets or face towing and fines for obstructing snow removal there. Last week, dozens of cars were towed from the Uptown lots after crews moved in just nine hours after the snow emergency was lifted.
“You couldn’t be parked [on the street] in front of your house until 10 p.m.,” said Isaac Cruz, owner of Diego’s Taqueria on John Street. “But you had to be out of the lots by 7, it was crazy.”
Cruz said he complained to Mayor Shayne Gallo in person and was, so far, happy with some of the changes. The new system includes not writing tickets for leaving cars on the street in the Uptown business district in a snow emergency until after 6 p.m., but does little to help restaurants and bars that do most of their business at night.
“If you’re telling me don’t park on the street from 4 p.m. to midnight, you might as well just tell me not to open,” said Reeve.
The city has also extended the time allowed between the end of a snow emergency and the commencement of lot clearing to 24 hours and it begun encouraging residents to sign up for the new Swift911 emergency alert system. Available on the city’s website, the system sends out parking regulation alerts via phone, text message or e-mail. Flyers distributed by the city also advise residents to park in Kingston Plaza or at Dietz Stadium during snow emergencies.
But, as illustrated by the apparently last-minute no-parking signs heralding an about-to-go-down Stockade snow-clearing operation and the attendant confusion, the system is still a work in progress. As the paper went to press, stickers reading “11 p.m.” were placed on the signs, implying, perhaps, that vehicle owners had until that time to move their cars from the street to a safer spot.
“Sometimes it seems like the more information you try to get out there,” said Gallo, “the more people are confused.”