Asbury Park officials are proposing to build a parking deck, at an estimated cost of $18 million, at the municipal complex on Main Street to help alleviate the chronic parking problems in the city.
Parking was the number one issue, especially as the summer season approaches, at a special meeting with mostly downtown Asbury Park business owners held in City Hall this week. Business owner and founder of the popular Asbury Underground event, Patrick Schiavino, organized the meeting to address parking and other issues.
City Manager Michael Capabianco announced that a Request for Proposal will be published soon seeking a contractor to construct a parking garage at city hall. He said the city would finance the project which would be constructed at the municipal complex on Main Street.
Part of the funding for the parking deck would come from the parking utility.
The city manager said the earliest completion date would be 2021.
To alleviate the parking problem now the city has bids out for a valet parking company.
The owner of Moonstruck restaurant raised fears that people will become too frustrated with trying to find parking and go elsewhere.
“People don’t go to Red Bank anymore; they just stopped going there,” he said.
Mayor John Moor, Deputy Mayor Amy Quinn and council members Eileen Chapman and Yvonne Clayton attended along with Police Chief David Kelso.
Director of Transportation Michael Manzella also attended and took questions from attendees.
Capabianco cited the new city website which is up and running but not fully completed saying they are working on calendars for both the business community and non profits so all information about events can be shared.
In addition, outside groups can also post special events.
Capabianco said it is a huge process and the city is just getting started.
“We are trying to bring more information out to the public, everything is growing,” he said.
A question was raised about the former VFW parking which is chained up.
Capabianco said the lot is privately owned and is now going through the approval process so it can be used as a for pay parking lot.
Capabianco also addressed rumors that a lot next to the Asbury Park Press building will soon provide 500 spots.
“Until we get an application in it’s all just rumors,” Capabianco said.
The owner of Confections of a Rockstar, Kimmee Masi, asked for 15 minute parking spots in front of her store on Cookman Avenue.
“My customers get tickets, we need to get 15 minute spots, it’s getting really hard for customers to come in…they don’t want to walk for blocks,” she said.
Manzella said there is a way on the Asbury Park app to input 15 minutes, however, there is a $1 minimum applied.
The state has recently opened the Bangs Avenue parking garage for public parking all weekend long.
Many in the audience asked why that has not been publicized better.
Manzella said A-frame signs are out in front of garage with the times it is open to the public which are Fridays, 6 p.m. to midnight and Saturdays and Sundays 9 a.m. to midnight at $2 per hour.
At midnight the gates will be closed and anyone who has not picked up their car will have to wait until the gates reopen at 8 a.m.
Mike Sodano, owner of The Showroom, said the information about where, when and how much to park should be put in a newsletter or posted on the new city website.
He said it should be standard information posted every week with an accompanying map of parking spaces.
“It will help the guest experience,” he said.
Nancy Sabino, also of the Showroom, asked about having public toilets for those getting off the train at the transportation center.
“Some of them have been drinking on the train and they can’t make it to the beach,” she said.
Many other complaints were made about the number of special events in the city and why they are always on Cookman Avenue. Many suggested festivals and other events be moved to Lake Avenue or other areas of the city.
“It’s a disaster for us. We might as well close our doors that day,” said Malcolm Navias owner of Heaven on Cookman Avenue.
Tom Pivinksi, chair of the Environmental Shade Tree Commission, suggested the city put a moratorium on parades and events for two years so business owners could take care of their customers.
“Then reestablish them,” he said.
Capabianco said the city’s fast rising reputation affects the entire state of New Jersey recounting a discussion he had recently with a mayor from a former town where he worked.
“So goes Asbury Park, so goes the state,” he said the mayor told him. “We are an economic engine for the state.”