Early Feburary’s snow storm – the first big snow storm in some time – caused a number of illegal parking instances across the City of Newburgh. On Sunday, January 31 at 6 p.m. the City of Newburgh declared a snow emergency in preparation for the forecast. With a snow emergency, alternate sides of the street parking regulations change to allow for plows to come through. The parking regulations allow for 24 hour parking on one side, while the other side gets plowed, and then it alternates.
But what if the other side doesn’t get plowed and you have nowhere to move your car?
Newburgh residents Diana Aguilar and Joselyn Taylor of Lutheran Street, expressed their concerns at the February 8 council meeting.
Aguilar said the entire street was illegally parked due to the inability to move their cars to the other side because it had not yet been plowed. Each vehicle was ticketed a $100 fine on Tuesday, February 2 just after 12 a.m.
While Aguilar and Taylor’s street were only ticketed, cars parked illegally during a snow emergency are subject to being towed.
At the council meeting, Taylor recalled being woken up by her neighbors because their cars were potentially going to be towed.
“How this storm was handled was very distasteful and I felt very – I never felt so unrepresented in my entire life,” said Taylor. “The whole neighborhood worked together and tried to coordinate with the Department of Public Works (DPW) and the police department. They could not meet the 6 p.m. deadline.”
She said while they were indeed parked on the wrong side of the street, and in turn parked illegally, “the entire neighborhood had coordinated so they could come and plow.” She said they never plowed the side they were supposed to move their cars to.
“If DPW and the police department did not meet the deadline, why should residents be held responsible?” asked Taylor.
Taylor said she plans to go through the due process and plead not guilty. The City Council cannot do anything in regards to the ticket.
At the meeting, Mayor Torrance Harvey said he didn’t understand why there was even a conversation considering Taylor openly admitted she was illegally parked.
“If the other side of the street isn’t plowed, how are we going to move the cars to the other side of the street Mayor?” asked Councilman Omari Shakur. “Use common sense. If the other side is not plowed, where are we supposed to go?”
Harvey suggested she shows photo proof when she goes to court for the case.
Councilwoman Karen Mejia said that during the snowstorm, her ward used “common sense and had the majority of folks move to one side for the plows.”
“I want to recognize the work DPW has done,” said Mejia. “They plowed and they fell behind schedule just because it was whiteout conditions. People moved when they could move. It got to a point, Monday to Tuesday, where we fell off the sink with regulations when it comes to parking.”
“It would behoove us to have a conversation on what can be done,” said Mejia. “The discussion we should have is what can we do about it now. It was lovely to see community and common sense come into play where you move from one side to the other.”
Harvey suggested that residents who are unsure about when a snow emergency is or what to do, they can sign up on the city website for alerts and announcements.
“Everyone’s cooperation is critical here,” said City Manager Joseph Donat at the council meeting. “If we’re able to get all cars on the correct side of the street, we are then able to get the pavement cleared.”
The snow emergency, which the city has seen another since the February 1 storm, also states that there is no parking allowed on 10 city streets. However, the city’s municipal parking lots are open for parking during a storm.
A couple of days later Newburgh’s Transportation Advisory Committee met to discuss the snow emergency parking protocols and what happened with this storm. Chair of the committee, Gabriel Berlin, said that every year issues come up regarding the snow emergency parking like the clarity of the signs on the street and disseminating information. However, he pins the recent issue on the snow emergency being one that only works for a storm that lasts less than 24 hours.
“The parking regulations are set that you have to move your car every 24 hours and what happened was we had a storm that lasted way longer than 24 hours and DPW, who worked literally non-stop, couldn’t plow everything within 24 hours,” said Berlin. “The system kind of broke down.”
He said while emergency snow parking is usually “impressive and allows the whole city to be cleared of snow,” it couldn’t measure up to a storm of this size.
“No one really knew what to do,” said Berlin when residents saw that the other side of the streets weren’t plowed. “People who had four wheel drive could drive into it, but me with an old station wagon, I couldn’t have driven across the street if I wanted to.”
Superintendent of DPW, George Garrison, spoke at the recent meeting and explained the hard work that the department put forward during the recent storms.
“Wednesday night to Sunday night, DPW did not go home,” said Berlin. “This definitely did not happen because DPW was unprepared or wasn’t working. They were working for days on end without stopping. Sometimes you get more snow than can be plowed in a 24-hour period.”
At this point, the Transportation Advisory Committee and several city department heads are considering what can be put in place for next year. One preliminary suggestion is to change the 24 hour parking mandate to 48, which would give plows an additional day for large snow storms like this past one. However, Berlin points out how this would require the city council to pass legislation and city code to be changed. That aside, it could potentially be a financial burden due to the fact it would cost the city to replace all of the emergency snow parking signage.
“The plan would be to discuss, at the direction of city council and city manager, what policies might need to be changed and ideally get them all in place well before next winter rolls around,” said Berlin.
Berlin also suggests looking at the city budget and considering reallocating funding to DPW.
“DPW is chronically underfunded in my opinion,” said Berlin. “Winter rolls around and people wonder why we don’t have more snow plows, more employees, why DPW can’t work faster. Part of the reason is because during budget season, none of these issues are being brought up by the community and the funding isn’t there.”
He encourages residents to get more involved in the budgeting process and let your voices be heard.