Thank you all for joining me today. I’m here to tell you that parking relief is coming to New Brunswick!
Now, I’m standing on the block that was once home to the Chardas Restaurant, one of many local businesses that was forced out of our city by a redevelopment regime that has been built on collusion between powerful real estate developers, corrupt politicians, and the New Brunswick Parking Authority.
Chardas opened in the 1930’s and it was the last Hungarian restaurant in New Brunswick when it closed twelve years ago to make way for a 10-story building that a politically-connected developer had promised to build.
Unfortunately for this neighborhood, the promised 10-story building is one of many projects where developers, with the help of my opponent, misled the public to secure valuable real estate, only to break their promises about what they would do with it after this regime had literally destroyed what was there before.
My opponent’s administration told the New York Times that their goal was to provide the owner of Chardas with a new location on or near Somerset Street. We can add that, too, to the list of broken promises. Chardas never re-opened, and it closed for good on July 2, 2006.
A few months later, John Lynch, Jr., my opponent’s cousin and the former political boss of New Brunswick, pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges. One of the people who signed a letter asking the Judge for leniency when he sentenced Boss Lynch was the owner of Lavalette-based AST Development, Robert D’Anton.
AST was the developer whose plans had forced out Chardas and that company went on to build the parking deck that you see behind me, which the Parking Authority had agreed to purchase from them. However, here, at the former site of Chardas, where AST had promised to provide retail storefronts, office space, and condominiums, they did nothing, they made no investment, and the left behind an ugly eyesore. They also broke their promise to install a traffic light at this intersection and another on French Street, leaving behind an unsafe situation that has led to numerous crashes.
This lot sat vacant and unutilized for another six years after Chardas closed before the Parking Authority finally paved it over and started charging people to park here in 2012.
So I tell you this story today simply so that you know what we are up against, and how the Lynch-Cahill machine has brought us a string of broken promises and big businesses that exploit us at the expense of the small businesses that enrich our communities and the taxpayers and residents who call our city home.
This political machine’s schemes typically involve the Parking Authority, either condemning real estate at the behest of powerful developers or borrowing tens of millions of dollars to help those wealthy developers meet their own parking needs, while leaving the needs of our residents unaddressed.
For these reasons and others, I support abolishing the New Brunswick Parking Authority and absorbing its responsibilities, assets, and liabilities into a new Transportation Department, a move that will save taxpayers money and allow us to better address the parking problem, combat the climate crisis, and take control of the NBPA’s out of control debt.
The New Brunswick Parking Authority currently has an outrageous amount of debt: $390,475,000 to be exact. As your Mayor, I will make it a priority to pay down this debt in a way that protects our people and ensures the next generation is not saddled with major liabilities or undesirable assets.
My opponent’s administration has guaranteed all $390 million of this debt in its entirety, putting taxpayers on the hook for all of it. My plan to dissolve the NBPA will give us greater control over this debt so that we can avoid a financial crisis that will hurt our taxpayers and our local economy.
I think it’s high time we move on from the old antiquated Parking Authority model and transition into a more comprehensive, sensible, and accountable approach to transportation issues in our city.
Doing this will realize significant cost savings by eliminating redundancies such as the many outside consultants and attorneys that the NBPA currently spends their money on. This will also enable us to merge payroll and other administrative systems with the city government’s systems, streamlining those operations and allowing us to use the best tools possible to manage our city government efficiently.
By dissolving their parking authority, Jersey City taxpayers have saved approximately $850,000 each year and helped bring more accountability to an important sector of their local government.
And that’s really the key word: accountability. Under my plan, the New Brunswick Department of Transportation will be led by a Director who will be completely and totally accountable to the Mayor, Council, and the residents of our great City. No more unelected NBPA Board of Commissioners and no more reckless borrowing.
I will work with community partners like our city’s hospitals, Rutgers University, NJTransit, and the county government to maximize the usage of our existing parking facilities and, in some cases, transfer these properties to new ownership in order to pay off the NBPA’s massive debt.
NBDOT will also offer its services and technology to other public and private entities that own parking lots and decks as a way to generate revenue and contribute towards paying down that debt.
I will also pull the city government out of the commercial real estate business. The NBPA’s recent commercial projects have failed to bring in rental revenue that they were counting on, such as the famous FreshGrocer supermarket, which closed abruptly after failing to pay rent for over a year, and still owes over $1 million to the NBPA.
After that debacle, the NBPA’s prime real estate sat vacant for a year and half before a new tenant moved in. That tenant has currently fallen behind on their rent, and owes the NBPA $378,984.
Brother Jimmy’s BBQ, another NBPA-owned property, shut down abruptly earlier this year, owing the NBPA $82,865. That space sits vacant to this day, generating no revenue and making it harder for the NBPA to pay down their debt.
Under my administration, we will sell these commercial real estate spaces, and we will use those funds to pay down that massive debt.
So, that’s my vision for transitioning away from that old model and avoiding what could be a pending financial crisis. Now here’s what you can expect from the new model: the New Brunswick Department of Transportation.
In contrast to the NBPA, the NBDOT will be comprehensive in its vision, and it will bring a fresh new focus to solving the parking problem, and tackling other challenges like improving our bus system, making the streets safer for bicyclists and pedestrians, upgrading our antiquated taxi service, and repairing our roadways.
I’ve been listening to the community’s concerns about parking–the shortage of spaces, the expensive rates, the frequent tickets, the confusing rules, and the lack of solutions to any of these problems.
First and foremost, the NBDOT will be able to tackle the parking problem in a new way. As the candidate who will put our residents and their needs first, I am committed to addressing this parking problem in a way that prioritizes our residents and their ability to park in their own neighborhoods.
So, I’m proud to announce that for the first time in history, the city government of New Brunswick will strategically invest in properties for the purpose of providing affordable off-street surface parking for residents in neighborhoods where parking demand outstrips the supply. It will be just like the lot that we are in today, except that it will actually be for the people of this city.
And by the way, these lots will be well-lit, safe places, and they’ll be built using permeable pavement that will reduce the negative effects of stormwater runoff, including flooding.
So, for a modest monthly fee, you’ll soon be able to have a guaranteed parking space in your neighborhood, so that when you come home late and see that all of the spaces on your street are gone, you’ll still have a safe place to park near your home.
And that’s just the beginning of my new approach to our parking problem.
My administration will also support an immediate 33% decrease in the rates at every parking meter in New Brunswick, bringing us back to the days when a quarter could buy just 15 minutes of parking. This is a common sense move to send the message that New Brunswick wants to encourage visitors to come and patronize our great businesses.
We will also end the ward-based parking permit system that discriminates against residents of smaller wards and segregates our communities for no good reason. Down Plum Street, one of the homes that I used to live in here in the Fifth Ward, is 88 Plum Street. The only problem was that Hamilton Street is the dividing line between the Fifth and Sixth Wards, so even though we could see Hartwell Street from our porches, we would get a ticket if we ever parked there. It’s just one of the many confusing rules about our existing permit system and because the Fifth Ward is the smallest, it only has about 12 blocks of parking where the permit is good. By contrast, a Sixth Ward permit covers a much larger geographic area, including several dozen blocks where the parking permit is very valuable, including areas directly adjacent to the Rutgers campus.
This inconsistency must stop, and by re-working this system in a way that allows residents of any ward to park in other wards, it will help our residents be more connected with one other.
My administration will also fight to limit alternate side parking regulations to only the period of May 15 to August 31 so that we are not exacerbating the parking crunch that is caused when Rutgers University is in session.
Currently, these rules are in effect from April to October, but during the school year, it is nearly impossible for residents to park their car legally during the days when those alternate side rules are in effect. The end result is that a lot of people get tickets, the street sweepers can’t do their job, and the whole thing is just an exercise in futility.
Now, this will require changes to our city’s stormwater management plan, and as a committed advocate for our environment, I’ll ensure that appropriate mitigating measures are put in place to compensate for these needed changes.
Additionally, the NBDOT will institute a superior program for employee parking and parking validation for our businesses, one that will make it easier to do business in our crowded downtown and across the city. The Parking Authority’s current program for nighttime employee parking is a resounding failure, with a total of zero customers currently on board. And I know first-hand many restaurant workers who struggle every day just to find places to park while they work and I’ve talked directly with them about the solutions they would like to see. As someone committed to working people and easing their struggles, I will expand this program to cover additional parking garages so that workers are able to park near their place they work at an affordable rate. I will also explore several ways to incentivize businesses to offer parking validation at their locations, including bulk discounts, which I know is something they are asking for.
Finally, my administration will require developers to pay a fee if and when they receive parking variances that allow them to build less parking than what is required by our city’s standards. Currently, when our land use boards grant these variances, there are often negative consequences for neighborhoods and developers get a valuable benefit at no cost. Under my plan, these developers would be required to pay a fee for each required parking space that they avoid building through the variance process. This would be similar to how things are done in Edison Township and other New Jersey municipalities. Ultimately, doing so will generate revenue to support the operations of the NBDOT and my administration’s efforts to enhance public transportation so that we can work towards a society that includes robust public transit systems, and one that is less reliant on private automobiles. It will also ensure that developers pay their fair share for infrastructure improvements that are needed as a result of their projects.
Before I wrap up, I just want to say that these are all changes that can be made. We can abolish the New Brunswick Parking Authority. If Jersey City can do it, so can we. If Montclair can do it, so can we. If Bloomfield can do it, so can we.
We can also create those surface parking lots for residents and lower the cost of metered parking to help our businesses thrive. We can also reform the city’s ward-based permit parking system. We can also establish better employee parking and parking validation programs. We can also scale back those alternate side parking rules. And we can require developers to pay when they don’t build enough parking. These are all things we can do.
But the only way we can do these things is if we work together and elect new leadership that will put the people of this great city first.
Together, we can make these changes. Together, we will make these change. Together, we will take our city back and we will give power to the people of New Brunswick!
Thank you so much everyone. Have a wonderful day.