Business Owners Ask City Council For Improvements To Paterson's Downtown
Thursday, June 7, 2012 • 3:55pm
PATERSON, NJ – A contingent of Paterson business leaders appealed to the City Council Wednesday night to improve conditions in the downtown area.
The merchants said parking problems, the proliferation of panhandlers, crime issues and competition from unlicensed street vendors were some of the factors that have made running a business in Paterson’s downtown more difficult.
“They vote with their feet,’’ Sheri Ferreira, of the Downtown Paterson Special Improvement District, said of the merchants. “They close their businesses or they take them someplace else.’’
“We know there are a lot of vacancies on Main Street, we don’t want to see anymore,’’ said Susan Greenbaum of Greenbaum Interiors on Washington Street.
“If you want this to remain a viable town, it’s really in the council’s lap,’’ said Mike Rosenthal, owner of Paterson Men’s Shop on Main Street.
City officials acknowledged the merchants’ concerns and promised to work with them.
Several of the 10 business leaders who attended Wednesday’s city council workshop session complained about Paterson’s parking situation.
Jamie Dykes, president of the Greater Paterson Chamber of Commerce, said downtown businesses have been asking for improved parking conditions for years. In response, the city has provided street lights, benches, and bus shelters, he said. “Everything but parking,’’ said Dykes.
The business leaders were particularly upset about ordinances adopted last year that banned parking one sections of several downtown streets during rush hour. The also complained that parking garages in the downtown area charge motorists have a $5 base fee that doesn’t accommodate shoppers who wants to stop for just 20 or 30 minutes. Such customers, the storeowners said, would be more likely to shop in downtown Paterson if some of the lots had parking meters that allowed them to pay 50 or 75 cents for a quick stop.
In discussing the issue, council members told the merchants they had no control over the rates imposed at garages owned by the Paterson Parking Authority. But the business leaders asked the council to give them more leverage over the parking authority by appointing a storeowner to the current vacancy on the parking authority.
Another issue that prompted much discussion at the meeting was safety in the downtown area, especially the public’s perception of it. Merchants said there has been a growing number of incidents in which the windows of motor vehicles and store were being smashed. Robberies and purse snatching are on the rise, too, they said. And panhandlers prey on shoppers, they added.
Business administrator Charles Thomas said the city was planning to use some of the 37 police officers being rehired this month for a special detail targeting the downtown area.
Ekaterina Valiotis of Alma Realty, the company that manages the Center City Mall and other Paterson properties, said she has noticed increased police presence downtown. But she said she has seen officers “walk past” illegal vendors without taking action in order to give a ticket to a double-parked shopper. Valiotis suggested police exercise some flexibility lest they chase customers away from an already-struggling shopping district.
Indeed, several the business leaders said the city needed to do a better job enforcing regulations banning unlicensed vendors because those businesses were taking customers from stores that pay property taxes. Councilman Kenneth Morris said he recently saw a vendor without a license selling “icies” across the street from City Hall.