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When I first joined the Teaneck Township Council, there was a vote on an ordinance restricting parking on Johnson Avenue between the hours of 10 a.m. and noon, Monday through Friday. My friend, Mrs. Ross, a resident who lives on Johnson Avenue, was in the audience that evening and I asked her what she thought about the proposed parking ordinance.
Her response surprised me.
“We need this because we live so close to Teaneck Road
and commuters have infiltrated our street and park all day, leaving us no room for our cars or our guests to park. What’s worse is that several commuters come early in the morning, wake us up with the slamming of their car doors, park all day and when they get home from New York City, they dump their trash on our lawn,” she said.
I was surprised at the level of her frustration. The parking problem had become so difficult that residents were willing to give up some of their own freedom and conveniences in order to control the situation.
I quickly noticed that parking restrictions only acted as a Band Aid solution to the commuter parking problem. On one street, the police department conducted a survey over a period of four days. Of the 103 vehicles recorded, 72 were from out of town. I spoke to our township attorney and was advised that Teaneck streets belong to every Teaneck taxpayer and we can’t allow only residents from a certain block to use the parking exclusively on that one block. Council can restrict out of town commuters from parking, but that would not solve the problem, since many of
the commuters lived in Teaneck and drove from one side of town to the other to park near a bus line. I decided that I needed to tackle this problem for our residents. I didn’t know if I would succeed with this challenge, but I knew that we, as a community, needed to encourage and help facilitate commuter parking.
Mass transit is good for the environment, convenient for residents and, most importantly, saves money. I was empathetic to the homeowners who live next to the bus line and simply wanted quality of life and a place to park by their own home. Every commuter had his/her own little secret commuter parking spot in town tucked away on residential streets that were not yet saddled with the parking ordinance, and as long as the neighbors didn’t complain, then it was safe to park there. But that solution was short-lived as block by block, streets along the bus routes on Teaneck Road and River Road were quickly becoming restricted parking areas. In 2009, NJ Transit estimated that more than 11,000 people daily started their bus route in Teaneck. That number has since increased. I met with representatives from NJ Transit and they were very willing to reroute buses to Teaneck commuter lots. The problem was that Teaneck simply did not have a large parking lot to accommodate this usage. After examining all of our municipal and merchant lots and finding that there was not sufficient space, I turned to Farleigh Dickinson University and Glenpointe, two of Teaneck’s largest property owners, and asked them if we could utilize some of their parking lot space for resident commuter parking. Both FDU and Glenpointe were very sympathetic to Teaneck’s commuter parking problem, but they simply did not have the available parking spaces.
I met with Bergen County representatives to ask about parking in Overpeck Park, and, at the time, they were not able to accommodate commuter parking. Holy Name Hospital was looking for more parking for their own use, so they couldn’t offer help either. I met with executives of a New York bus service that runs a daily route to Port Authority and Wall Street to see if they would be willing to stop in Teaneck and its representatives declined. I spoke with the owner of the Spanish Transport Agency who operates the little green buses that travel on Route 4 daily and asked if he would consider running a daily shuttle service around town to take commuters to bus lines, take seniors to shopping and doctors visits and take residents around town from one point to another. Although he thought
the idea had merit, he could not figure out the economics to make this venture work.
Determined to find a solution, I held a commuter parking meeting with residents when I was mayor to get their feedback and
suggestions. After all, they were the ones who needed the parking. We placed flyers on car windows, advertising the commuter meeting information along blocks around the bus routes that had not yet adopted restricted parking rules. The meeting was very well attended, and some non-Teaneck commuters attended. Several suggestions came out of the meeting, but the bottom line was that I needed to find a way to create a commuter parking area, chase away the out of town commuter parkers and help give our residents who live on blocks around bus routes their streets back. Without a large lot to work with, I collaborated with the township manager and council to create several pocket commuter parking areas in town in which residents can purchase an annual tag. These parking tags were priced at a very affordable and low cost to encourage commuters to take part in the program. While not an ideal solution, little by little, commuters have begun to use these special areas, and our residents living next to the bus lines are seeing
their streets open up again.
Problem solved? Not exactly, but the problem is being worked on and addressed with the limited options we have. I intend to continue to work on the commuter parking problem in Teaneck and to keep adding more convenient commuter parking options in an effort to maintain the excellent quality of life that we enjoy in our great town. Teaneck commuters can go to the township clerk’s office and purchase a commuter parking tag for $50 per year (less than $4.25 per month) and park in the following designated commuter parking areas:
– Teaneck Road/Beveridge Street Lot
– Teaneck Road/ Church Street Lot
– Teaneck Road/ Orchard Street Lot
– Queen Anne Road/ Degraw Avenue
– American Legion Drive/North Street/ Chestnut Avenue State Street Parking Lots (between Palisades Avenue and Teaneck Road).
We are working on three more areas.