Oneida County Executive Tony Picente took a jab at another attempt this week to ressurect the Park Ave. parking proposal that was rejected back in 2007. His plan then, as now, is to basically close the portion of Park Ave. that fronts the Oneida County Office Building. In its place would be built additional parking that would serve county government. The traffic would be re-routed up John St. and around to Rutger.
The idea was flawed then. Unlike fine wine, it has not improved with age.
Let me make full disclosure. I admire and respect the county executive. We graduated from Notre Dame together, a zillion years ago it seems. I think he has done an admirable job governing a county that has seemingly insurmountable issues. That makes it even harder for me to understand why he keeps pushing this rather bad idea.
First, I do not subscribe to the idea that we even need more parking downtown. Look at the maps. Look at the statistics. The parking problem is a perceived one, not a reality. Let's examine a few things that contribute to the lasting belief that there is not enough parking downtown.
The Union-Blandina Parking lot is usually almost empty. Take a drive down any day of the week. Why not make it a county lot? If the county workers need parking, mandate that they park there. Its only a few steps from the Charlotte St. entrance. It would also relieve the congestion from county employees parking on the street.
The same situation exists at the Boston Store parking garage. The upper deck is almost always empty! Take a look for your self-just about any day of the week, there it sits, a parking garage with no people using a great portion of it.
For that matter, why is Utica just about the only municipality in the state not to have parking meters? That would eliminate the problem of downtown workers parking on the streets all day. More open spaces on the street would signal to people that there is plenty of parking downtown.
The money collected from the meters could be allocated to downtown development, promotion and beautification. We have a city with a budget that allocates NOTHING to downtown. Zip. Zero.
If you are not going to maintain your central business district with the resources necessary to manage it properly, then do something! At least meters would be a steady stream of income. We know what we get when we depend on elected city officials. That's right. Zip. Zero. Nada!
The state did a huge disservice to the citizens of this city when it demolished it's crumbling parking garage and replaced it with a closed VIP lot for high ranking state officials. Never mind the struggling businesses and rank and file state office building employees. The big shots all get convenient, free parking!
Back to Park Ave. When the Oneida County office building, or the "waffle iron" as I like to call it, was built in the '60's, government always got its way. Whole neighborhoods of spectacular 19th and early 20th century architecture were wiped away for the sake of "urban renewal."The O.C. building was just the start.
Now, we want to further sacrifice the city for the sake of government expansion. Enough already! I understand the desire to provide close, accessible parking. We do not, however, have the same land mass as the suburbs. We will never have the ability to offer mall type parking. And we should'nt. We are a city. We need to start acting like one.
The County Executive stated that "this is not the 1920's. We need to have good development in the city."
He's right. If this was the '20's, the project would be a done deal. No public input. Just a series of smoke-filled back-room deals. And that would be it.
No, it's not the 1920's. Thank God. We have a chance, through public discourse, to make sure the best decisions are made for our city. And, lead by advocacy groups like Landmark's, we actually have a chance to facilitate good development.
So here are a couple suggestions.
Take The Mauro's Glass, Franks Auto, and the carwash properties and relocate them. Somewhere in the city. And square off the campus, surround it with an iron fence, and create the parking that is apparently, so desperately needed.
It would vastly improve the look of the neighborhood. It would also provide more parking.
Or, maybe we should just offer free parallel parking classes. In all honesty, I have never, EVER had a problem finding a parking spot downtown. Maybe that's because, thanks to Gigliotti's Driving School, I am an expert parallel parker! If more Utica drivers could parallel park, the perception of a parking problem would evaporate overnight.
And so would the dented fenders.