Parking Permit Woes Topped Public Comments Again


Mayor Ray Grabowski and Councilman Chris D'Amato

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the council received an update on St. Peter’s Haven food pantry and Clifton’s Code Blue warming center during the work session. There are currently 1,447 households being served by the Haven, representing a 42% increase in Clifton homes needing assistance. The Haven asked for extra CARES money from the city to help the pantry feed everyone who relies on it. Councilwoman Mary Sadrakula asked if this money could only be used for Clifton residents and questioned if this was being tracked. A Haven representative said that the money would be allocated for Clifton residents only, adding that they keep excellent records so they know who they’re serving.

Last year, the warming center was open for 82 nights between November and March. The days and hours of operation are dictated by the county, which sets approval for its operation on a day-by-day basis according to outside temperatures. City Manager Nick Villano said that the council should plan for 100 nights to be safe. The city stations an armed guard and generally two city employees are assigned to the warming center when it’s open.

Referencing the previous council meeting and the public outcry around the new parking permit regulations, Villano said that the city needs to do a better job of communicating with residents. If there is a fee or ordinance change, he said, we need a better way of alerting our residents. Councilwoman Rosemary Pino asked Villano what his proposal is for doing a better job and Villano said that he’s waiting for Council to direct him regarding the specifications for the job of Communications Director, which is a position Council approved but has not yet filled. He suggested collecting email addresses as a way of alerting residents to changes and possibly using door hangers to share important updates, which was an idea offered by Councilman Tony Latona.

New Councilman Chris D’Amato, at the table for fewer than 45 minutes, asked about the obstacles for putting all of the documents he has in his Councilman’s binder online for the public to see. The agenda, Villano said, was supposed to be moved entirely to a digital version but said, “We’re having trouble moving off of paper.”

D’Amato next asked about creating and integrating an app with the city website. He referenced NYC’s 311 app, which is used as an alert system and enables the entire city to be notified of government-related updates in real time. Villano said that some of this will require additional money to implement, but some may be easy enough to get done. Hiring a Communications Director would be an important step in moving forward with any such plan.

During Public Recognition in the regular session, many residents again came to address their grievances with the new parking permits. Some said that permitted parking was not even necessary or desired on their streets.

Arthur DeRose of Harrington Road came with a petition, signed by most of his neighbors, requesting that permit parking signs be removed from their street. They object to the additional burden of the required permits and, DeRose said, the neighbor who originally requested permitted parking has long since passed away.

Samantha DeRose, who lives next to her father Arthur, also talked about the parking permits required of the residents of that street, originally enacted because of workers from the nearby industrial complex parking there. Other streets near the complex along Brighton do not have this requirement, she said, and renovations to those businesses have made it unnecessary due to increased parking on their premises. She called the permitted parking “arbitrary” and “inequitable” and asked the Council to remove the permitted parking signs.

Several other residents shared their own frustrations with the parking permit rollout, the added financial burden, and their anger at receiving tickets even when they were displaying the appropriate permit.

Resident Aliza Bloom said that she came to support Chris D’Amato as the temporary appointment to fill Lauren Murphy’s seat and was happy to see him already on the dais. “People don’t often come just to praise,” she said, before complimenting the city on its road-clearing work during the days of ice and snow. Bloom specifically thanked the mayor for giving her fourth-grade students a tour of City Hall. “Thank you for all you do for Clifton.”

Donna Popowich acknowledged that the city has had a rough couple of weeks and said that it was nice to see some joy when D’Amato was appointed unanimously. Popowich invited the community to contribute to the Lauren Murphy Scholarship Fund, to be awarded to a Clifton High School senior who is going into the field of Social Work.

A former councilman, Matt Ward, talked to the council about a charter study. He explained the challenges of replacing all seven seats at once instead of having staggered elections and of not having the mayor as a separate race on the ballot instead of relying on the tradition of that designation going to the highest vote-getter. A charter study question on the ballot would allow the public to decide if we should take a serious look at our form of government. “A yes or no question,” he said, would either confirm that the public wants a study or that they are happy with the status quo. The City Council would need to approve the ballot question, putting the question before the voters. If approved, the question would only be an initial step, determining whether a study should be conducted or not.

The City Council will meet again on Tuesday, February 13 at 6:30 to continue its budget discussions. The next regular Council meeting will be on Tuesday, February 20 at 6:30.

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