Today’s news:

Quietly the city raises parking meter rates

Next time you park on Crosby Avenue, on Morris Park Avenue, on Westchester Square, read your meter. The city has quietly increased the price of curbside parking 50 percent. At meters where a quarter used to buy 30 minutes, a quarter will now buy only 20 minutes. The change is part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to raise an additional $16.8 million.

Westchester Square merchant leader John Bonizio is livid. Bonizio called the change a trap, and a boon for parking enforcement agents.

“Faster meters, more tickets,” he said. “It sucks. The city won’t paint our streets, but will raise our rates.”

Last week, Fred Mele of Spencer Estate parked on Crosby Avenue to visit a bakery. The change took him by surprise. Mele read the meter before leaving his car; many people don’t, he said. Already, they’re being ticketed. They’re complaining to merchants like Tonja Forsberg, who owns a spa and salon on Crosby Avenue. The rate change occurred without merchant input, Forsberg said. Now parking agents are on the attack.

“Most of my customers don’t know,” she said. “I pay one ticket per customer as a courtesy. So far, the change has cost me $900.”

Bloomberg announced the change three months ago, in a press release listing countless measures planned to close the city’s budget gap. The DOT will have converted 47,000 meters – 7,138 in the Bronx – by June. Queens is complete. The DOT is currently converting meters in the Bronx. According to DOT spokesman Monty Dean, the change is displayed on the meters and on the digital display that appears when coins are inserted.

There are, however, no signs alerting shoppers to the change. In response to a slew of phone calls, Community Board 10 will ask the DOT to place rate change stickers on parking signs.

“It’s the least they can do,” district manager Ken Kearns said.

Councilman James Vacca will ask the City Council’s transportation committee to hold a hearing about the change. Vacca recently sponsored a pair of pro-parking bills.

“The city’s parking enforcement strategy has to be re-evaluated,” he said. “Maybe parking space turnover is good, maybe not. But there was no prior notice.”

Bloomberg didn’t approach the Pelham Bay Taxpayers Association or the Morris Park Community Association.

“The city wanted to catch us with our pants down,” Pelham Bay president Ed Romeo said. “The city needed cash.”

Many merchants are for the change, Dean said. Faster meters, more customers. Morris Park president Al D’Angelo disagreed.

“It’s absurd what the city is doing to merchants,” D’Angelo said. “First the aggressive meter maids, now this. People are fleeing to the malls and Bloomberg is happy.”

Most of the borough’s meters haven’t changed since 1992, when many were increased to a quarter for 30 minutes. William Pedone owns Van Nest True Value Hardware. His customers haven’t complained about the change.

Next time you park on Crosby Avenue, on Morris Park Avenue, on Westchester Square, read your meter. The city has quietly increased the price of curbside parking 50 percent. At meters where a quarter used to buy 30 minutes, a quarter will now buy only 20 minutes. The change is part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to raise an additional $16.8 million.

Westchester Square merchant leader John Bonizio is livid. Bonizio called the change a trap, and a boon for parking enforcement agents.

“Faster meters, more tickets,” he said. “It sucks. The city won’t paint our streets, but will raise our rates.”

Last week, Fred Mele of Spencer Estate parked on Crosby Avenue to visit a bakery. The change took him by surprise. Mele read the meter before leaving his car; many people don’t, he said. Already, they’re being ticketed. They’re complaining to merchants like Tonja Forsberg, who owns a spa and salon on Crosby Avenue. The rate change occurred without merchant input, Forsberg said. Now parking agents are on the attack.

“Most of my customers don’t know,” she said. “I pay one ticket per customer as a courtesy. So far, the change has cost me $900.”

Bloomberg announced the change three months ago, in a press release listing countless measures planned to close the city’s budget gap. The DOT will have converted 47,000 meters – 7,138 in the Bronx – by June. Queens is complete. The DOT is currently converting meters in the Bronx. According to DOT spokesman Monty Dean, the change is displayed on the meters and on the digital display that appears when coins are inserted.

There are, however, no signs alerting shoppers to the change. In response to a slew of phone calls, Community Board 10 will ask the DOT to place rate change stickers on parking signs.

“It’s the least they can do,” district manager Ken Kearns said.

Councilman James Vacca will ask the City Council’s transportation committee to hold a hearing about the change. Vacca recently sponsored a pair of pro-parking bills.

“The city’s parking enforcement strategy has to be re-evaluated,” he said. “Maybe parking space turnover is good, maybe not. But there was no prior notice.”

Bloomberg didn’t approach the Pelham Bay Taxpayers Association or the Morris Park Community Association.

“The city wanted to catch us with our pants down,” Pelham Bay president Ed Romeo said. “The city needed cash.”

Many merchants are for the change, Dean said. Faster meters, more customers. Morris Park president Al D’Angelo disagreed.

“It’s absurd what the city is doing to merchants,” D’Angelo said. “First the aggressive meter maids, now this. People are fleeing to the malls and Bloomberg is happy.”

Most of the borough’s meters haven’t changed since 1992, when many were increased to a quarter for 30 minutes. William Pedone owns Van Nest True Value Hardware. His customers haven’t complained about the change.

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