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Proposed Fruit Belt parking permit system stalls in State Senate

ALBANY – A plan to bring the first residential parking permit system to Buffalo’s Fruit Belt neighborhood is stalled in the State Senate, following concerns raised by the state’s top public employee union.

The proposal, supported by a home rule message from Buffalo, would create a residential parking permit system to alleviate problems residents face with increasing jockeying for on-street spaces near the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

The bill is expected to pass in the Assembly, but the effort has become stalled in the Senate, where the Civil Service Employees Association is pressing to kill what the union calls a “short-sighted approach” to parking problems.

Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes and Sen. Tim Kennedy, both Democrats from Buffalo, introduced the parking system legislation.

But in a memo in opposition, the CSEA said there are 3,100 parking spaces at Roswell Park Cancer Institute and only 1,600 employee parking spaces. That has left a battle for free, on-street parking around the medical campus that spills into the Fruit Belt.

“CSEA members have to park over a mile from their workplace and are forced to walk through high-crime areas,” the opposition memo states. “This issue will balloon into a potentially crippling problem within the next few years if the permit system goes through and more development continues.”

Kennedy said the permit system is only a part of a more comprehensive solution that the city and the hospitals are pledging to address.

But Kennedy said the permit system needs to be approved now to address an increasing problem for residents.

The legislation does not specify precisely how the permit system would work. But presumably, it would be based on other cities’, where time-of-day parking bans would exist for people who don’t have a residential permit.

“This is something that the residents of the Fruit Belt need and have been clamoring for,” Kennedy said.

The legislation defines the precise neighborhood streets where the permit system would apply, and would not affect streets where adjacent properties are zoned for commercial or retail use.

In its opposition memo, the CSEA said a more comprehensive parking solution needs to be found before a permit system can be put in place.

“We need a better approach to create more parking for workers in order to maintain the success of drawing businesses and jobs to downtown Buffalo,” the union memo states.