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A Divided Ridgewood To Vote On Parking Deck Tuesday

Ridgewood goes to the polls Tuesday to vote on whether to spend $11.5 million on a Hudson Street parking deck that would be built on this 77-space lot.
Ridgewood goes to the polls Tuesday to vote on whether to spend $11.5 million on a Hudson Street parking deck that would be built on this 77-space lot. Photo Credit: DAILY VOICE

RIDGEWOOD, N.J. — Ridgewood residents will vote no or yes Tuesday on whether to spend $11.5 million on a Hudson Street parking deck.

The choice seems simple. It isn’t.

In recent days, mailings, countermailings, and even a church bulletin are weighing in on exactly what a “yes” vote means.

“It is very clear that there is a dearth of parking available in the village,” Village Manager Roberta Sonenfeld said. “This situation is particularly acute closer to the train station between Franklin and Hudson/Dayton and Broad/Oak.”

Time and again, studies have shown there is a strong need for parking in that area, she added, noting the west side commuter lot by the train station is very busy.

Literature on the village website, now the subject of a lawsuit because of its alleged bias, states plainly the referendum is only about cost and location. Not the size of the deck. Not its shape. Not its style.

But members of the group, ITS2BIG, aren’t so sure.

“I believe we are voting for a particular design of garage because $11.5 million is the number that is associated with Design D,” said Lorraine Reynolds, ITS2BIG cofounder, along with Gail McCarthy.

The group was the driving force in getting the issue put to binding referendum Tuesday.

Design D, which accommodates 325 cars, is one of four that have been floated. Other plans have proposed as many as 405 spaces and as few as 260.

According to Reynolds, Design D is large enough that it spreads five feet over the existing footprint of the 77-car parking lot now on the proposed deck location.

“That will narrow Hudson Street by five feet, which will reduce the number of lanes on Hudson Street to two,” Reynolds said.

Currently, Hudson has three lanes — one through lane, two parking lanes.

The loss of that lane has upset Rev. Msgr. Ronald J. Rozniak of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. In last Sunday’s church bulletin, he noted that the Village Council did not consult the church in making its plans.

He referenced a video on the village website touting the project.

“The video clearly points to the 325-car deck,” Rozniak wrote.

On-street parking on the south side of Hudson Street will “unquestionably have a negative impact on the operations of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church,” he added.

According to ITS2BIG, people who support a garage can still vote no on the referendum.

“Voting no is no to a big garage,” McCarthy said. “Voting no is yes to a comprehensive parking plan for the downtown.”

On July 1, three new council members will take office in the village. If residents vote yes for the referendum, the group points out, the village manager could sign a contract for the new garage in the next nine days.

If, on the other hand, the village votes against the referendum, Reynolds said, the $11.5 million funding ordinance passed by the present council simply dies.

“But the new council coming in can bond any amount they want,” Reynolds said.

The new council, according to ITS2BIG , is expected to address a comprehensive plan to gain more parking spaces throughout the downtown district.

Such a plan, they say, could include building a smaller garage on Hudson Street, making more on-street spaces in other areas around town, and possibly leasing or purchasing the 80-space Zabriskie lot behind the Warner Theater on East Ridgewood Avenue.

The village confirmed there are spots available in the Zabriskie lot in the middle of the downtown district and also on nearby Cottage Street. But that reality, Sonenfeld suggested, suggests that area of the shopping district is not where the parking problem exists.

In an 11-minute video on the village website urging voters to support the referendum, Mayor Paul Aronsohn made that very point.

“We need parking,” he said, while standing on Hudson Street. “We need it in this area because of the restaurant concentration and the proximity to the train station.”

He noted the deck, depending on the weather, could take eight months to build and urged voters to vote “yes” on the plan so work could begin as soon as possible.

Polls are open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.

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