There’s nothing that gets an Eastwood person more hoppin’ mad than a threat to the always-on-the-brink James Street business district. Similarly, there’s always much rejoicing when something – anything – goes right there. We’ve fought to keep gas stations from popping up all over the place. We’ve lived through the years of the Walgreens battles, which ended up securing Eastwood’s fame for protecting its overlay district guidelines. We’ve expressed deep, deep concern about what might happen to the James and Midler intersection. And we’ve also celebrated the successes: excellent streetscape improvements, the renovation of the Palace Theater, the facade improvements at Pomco, the continued success of the Burger Joint and our two independent book stores, Books End and Books and Memories.
Now, oddly enough, there’s a threat coming from the mother ship itself, City Hall, and Eastwood residents and business people have responded with what I believe is a first: an online petition (and I’m not the one who created it!). The threat comes in the form of an increase in the aggressive enforcement of parking rules, made all the more onerous by the installation of parking machines. These machines are confusing to some, difficult to use for others, and, during a winter like this one, sometimes impossible to get at. And that’s just for starters. As it turns out, Eastwood is not like, say, downtown Manhattan, or downtown Syracuse for that matter, where there’s enough density to put parking spots at a premium. In fact, Eastwood is surrounded by businesses where parking is free – in Shop City, along Teall Ave and Erie Blvd, in East Syracuse, even at the Eastwood Plaza. It’s no wonder people think that, if parking might cause them to risk a $35 fine, it just makes more sense to completely avoid doing business in Eastwood.
I have heard from several James Street business owners who have said that those parking meters chase business away. One of our most dedicated business people, the owner of Books and Memories, is concerned that his business will fail if the machines aren’t removed. After all our hard work making Walgreens conform to guidelines, it is greatly disquieting to see the city punish businesses on James – the kind we want there, the kind that attract people into Eastwood like Books and Memories does. Walgreens was allowed to lay down a sea of asphalt at the gateway of our neighborhood, but the businesses that were already there on James Street are made to suffer. Where is the logic in this?
If it made sense to have meters there, you’d see James Street packed with parked cars all the time. But the meters have driven away those people who would have come here, so now whatever revenue might have been obtained from them has dried up. The city loses, our struggling businesses lose, and the property values of the residents necessarily start to drop as James Street teeters once again at the brink.
I’ve been thrilled with the transparency and responsiveness of the current administration. This makes it all the more astounding that our business district is not getting the tender loving care that it needs. Instead, it’s been roped into some kind of blanket “solution” to the fiscal nightmare the city faces. Making life difficult for businesses doesn’t solve a thing. If you put business out of business with parking meters that don’t even collect quarters any more, you have created a lose-lose situation.
Please, let’s sell those machines to Manhattan. They need ’em a lot more than we do. Let’s keep these businesses on the tax rolls. Let’s keep our home values and assessments up. The city cannot afford to let tumbleweed go rolling through our business district.
To learn more about this issue and to sign a petition to pull the parking machines, please go to this site: Eastwood Renaissance Association
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead.