By JOHN T. WARD
Like visitors circling the White Street lot in search of a spot, Red Bank merchants and residents took another spin at solving downtown parking issues Monday night.
In the same auditorium where a similar forum was held 14 months ago, about 50 participants showed up at the borough middle school to advocate for improvements, many of them echoes of long-standing complaints and suggestions.
Carrie Krasnow, of New York-based Walker Consultants, told the audience that the aim of the study was to “take a fresh look at the parking system.” And the meeting was a chance for residents and business owners to talk about what works, what doesn’t, and what should be done to improve it, she said.
Among the points made:
• The municipal lots east of Broad Street are underutilized, and that’s because signage directing motorists to them is poor. Even referring to the central lot downtown as the White Street lot is unhelpful, said Bistro owner George Lyristis.
“Why not just number the parking lots?” he asked.
• Holders of parking permits monopolize too many of the White Street lot’s 273 parking spots, said several audience members. Leonardo Jewelers owner Leo Zeik said the borough “should pull all permit parking out of White Street” and relocate it to the East Side lots.
• Red Bank Catholic students “overwhelm” the White Street lot, said Monmouth Street landlord Bill Meyer. He, too, said students and downtown employees should be required or encouraged to park on the East Side.
• Whatever Walker recommends in terms of the number of spaces the town needs, that figure must take into account second-floor office spaces, many of which are vacant, said several commenters, including landlord John Bowers.
• The perceptions that Red Bank parking is difficult, and that $38 parking tickets await visitors, are rampant and hurting businesses. Language School owner Ingeborg Perndorfer said that in the 15 years that her group of tennis friends have met twice a year for lunch, they have refused to gather in Red Bank.
“That’s a disaster for us in Red Bank,” she said.
• There needs to be better utilization of technology and data. Steven Sickles, a longtime downtown resident, said he’d built a parking app that, if the town would enable API linking, would let visitors see which parking spaces are available on their mobile devices.
• Valet parking. “It’s done in this town, but it’s not done effectively,” said RiverCenter chairman and Cheese Cave owner Steve Catania. “It can be a revenue producer for the borough.”
Office landlord Jay Herman of Downtown Investors told the consultants that “until we solve this major infrastructure problem, the downtown will never be what it should be.”
Afterward, Krasnow told redbankgreen that the forum marked the start of the firm’s work. Walker was hired in June, but “the city asked us to hold off” doing utilization counts and other field work during the summer, when schools were closed and both the Count Basie Center for the Arts and the Two River Theater were closed for construction, she said.
More public meetings on the topic are planned, though no dates have been set, Krasnow said. In addition, a survey will soon be available on the borough website, she said.
Walker is expected to deliver a draft report in December, said Jim Scavone, executive director of Red Bank RiverCenter , the downtown advocacy organization that contributed $25,000 toward the $52,350 cost of the study.
Borough Business Administrator Ziad Shehady, who started in his job in May, said the study won’t just sit on a shelf.
“I guarantee that,” he said, adding that he’d been hired to see projects through to completion.
Among those in attendance were Mayor Pasquale Menna; four council members; and all candidates for mayor and council.