NIAGARA FALLS – Parking meters have been installed along downtown Niagara Falls streets and in two parking lots for less than a month, but these meters already are causing grief for some businesses, including some that serve the unemployed and needy.
On Monday, the Niagara Falls City Council tabled a plan for a resident parking pass that would charge residents a $25 annual fee. Residents would be able to purchase one swipe card for the first car at their address and up to three more cards for additional cars for $15 each annually.
But the card may not be used by a person employed downtown who wants to use the card to go to work from outside the area. The cards were designed to be used for special events, after 5 p.m. Fridays and all day Saturday and Sunday.
Several businesses, including Catholic Charities and Neighborhood Legal Services said the new meter fees, which are $3 per hour or $20 per day in city lots, were not practical for those having problems just feeding their own families.
Anthony A. Girasole, the owner of 225 Old Falls Street, said he has built up the building tenancy, which includes Neighborhood Legal Services, from zero to 60 percent occupancy in seven years. But he said the new parking rates will chase out his tenants.
“You can’t penalize offices and apartments,” said Girosole. He said there was no short-term parking for someone who wants to drop off a delivery, fix an elevator or do repairs.
Mary Ann Oliver, managing partner for Neighborhood Legal Services, said $3 may not seem like much to most people but her clients are poor and the parking fee essentially denies them access to legal services.
Kathleen Hall, Niagara County district director for Catholic Charities at 256 Third St., agreed. She said people who go to their offices are “living on the edge” and are in need of food and don’t have the funds to pay for parking.
She said if the charity is forced to pay parking fees for its employees, the money will come out of the funds they otherwise would use to help people in need in the community.
Council Chairman Andrew Touma said the issues business owners were bringing up should have been negotiated with the administration and resolved months ago, before the meters went in.
“We should have done a better job,” Touma said. “I think something can be worked out that will be favorable to businesses. We will pass this on to the administration.”
With no resident parking pass approved Monday night, city residents will have to continue to pay the $3 an hour.