The Wall Street Neighborhood Association strongly recommends that the Norwalk Parking Authority (NPA) should not charge for parking in the Wall Street area at this time. Norwalk can ill afford to burden the Wall Street area retailer/merchants with parking fees that have proven to stymie growth. The recent implementation of parking fees in the area over past month or so empirically bears this out.
Multiple Wall Street area merchants shared, with NPA Board Members and Staff, their common story about their loss of business right after the NPA implemented new street metered parking fees in the Wall Street area. Every merchant present at the packed meeting indicated the parking fee structure, implemented in October, had been detrimental to their business.
To its credit the NPA revised its policies in November and instituted a temporary reprieve from parking fees in the area. But, as we found out last night the reprieve is only for November and December. Worse, NPA plans to begin charging for street parking again in January 2020. Many of the merchants left the meeting feeling blindsided.
This begs the question. Why is NPA implementing parking fees for the Wall Street area when the local merchants, who are generally the sole beneficiaries of street meter parking, are adamant that this is not the right time for such action? How does this benefit Wall Street?
According to NPA chairman Dick Breccia, the seed for the “idea” for metered parking on Wall Street was planted back in 2013 or 2014. The reason was to foster turnover as the local merchants were complaining about the lack of available parking in the front of their stores.
As a member of the Mayor’s Wall Street Task Force at the time I do recall that being the case in a defined one-block area of Wall Street and by only a couple of merchants. However, from my prospective in 2014 the need to have metered parking on Wall Street was predicated upon the POKO project being developed as planned, with emphasis on as planned. The projected completion date for POKO was in late 2016/early 2017. During this time frame the Head of the Harbor South was approved and there was much talk of building Head of the Harbor North and Highpointe all totaling over 500 apartments. To date only 60 have been delivered.
Had POKO been completed as planned the street parking spaces to the west of the Norwalk River would have been heavily impacted by the residents of the POKO project. After all, who would want to stick their car into an expensive and slow vending machine when “free” parking is right outside curbside.
Since the POKO project is on hold, and the vending machine parking scheme is all but dead, there is no current need for metered street parking.
It is important to understand that the purpose of metered street parking is to help the local merchants/retail businesses by ensuring a steady supply of available parking spaces close by. This is Smart Government 101 and reflects an understanding of the various inputs, competing interests and the balance needed to ensure a vibrant downtown.
Metered street parking should only be undertaken if, and only if, there is a recognized demand for parking fees expressed by the local merchants. This happens when an area becomes sufficiently vibrant that street parking becomes “clogged” depriving local merchants of customers. Only by listening to the local merchants can a municipality know the right time to implement parking fees.
We, the Wall Street Neighborhood Association (WSNA) urge the NPA and the City of Norwalk to take a “Do No Harm” policy toward the Wall Street area by listening to the merchants. They are the customer in this case.
And when the Wall Street area achieves a level of revitalization that requires metered street parking, we hope NPA will continue a “Do No Harm” parking policy stance to help foster on-going business growth.
Wall Street Neighborhood Association