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Council: Send parking complaints to commissioner, not us

If drivers still have concerns, complaints or are confused by Buffalo's new parking policy, Common Council members say don't call them, call the Brown administration, which originated the plan.

“This parking plan has already been confusing enough, I don’t want the public to think that they have two different groups working on this from City Hall,” said Council President Darius G. Pridgen, adding that Parking Commissioner Kevin Helfer "has committed to this Council" to talk and meet directly with people.

The Brown administration presented the parking plan last month to the Common Council, which unanimously approved it with the condition that Helfer report back to the Council by April with a review.

“If people want to talk to the person who is going to bring back to the Council in April a plan, they should go to the commissioner of parking directly, so that their concerns be heard now, so by the time it comes back to the Council in April, we will know that people are heard,” Pridgen said. Those who do call Council members with concerns will be referred to the parking department.

Once the administration comes back with any revisions in April, Pridgen said, “We then begin a process of it going to committee and people can then talk about what the commissioner has brought.”

Rather than calling his office, Helfer said emailing him at khelfer@city-buffalo.com is the “best way” to keep track of correspondences about the new plan.

“So nobody says, ‘I called you. You didn’t respond.’ I hate when that happens, but an email has an electronic (trail)," Helfer said.

But whether people call or email, he or someone on his staff will get back to people and try to address their concerns, Helfer said.

“Everybody will get an answer within 48 to 72 hours,” he said.

The city's new policy called for reduced free parking and higher rates in and around downtown. But some complained that the new policy adds parking zones where the only way to park is through the Buffalo Roam app available only on smartphones. Helfer said last Friday that the city is looking at other options “for the small percentage who do not have a smartphone.”

Following public outcry and an online petition opposing the new parking plan, Pridgen and Mayor Byron W. Brown agreed last week to return to some free parking on weeknights and Saturdays. Metered parking during those times would be in effect only for major events downtown, such as games and concerts at KeyBank Center, Canalside, Shea’s Performing Arts Center and Sahlen Field.

Those changes were adopted during Tuesday's Council meeting.

The new event parking with a $2 fee was in place from 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday for the Buffalo Sabres game at KeyBank Center.

The new parking spaces are “pay by cell” only by using the Buffalo Roam app at Buffaloroamapp.com.

The city rolled out the new policy with changes for last Thursday’s Sabres game at the arena in anticipation that the Council would adopt the changes.

City officials said of the approximately 115 new on-street parking spots in and around the arena, including the Canalside area, 103 were used during Thursday’s game.

For Saturday night’s Bandits game at the arena, 115 spots were used, city officials said.

For complete information about the new parking plan, go to www.buffalony.gov.

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