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Town Board to Reconsider New EHA "Snow Emergency" Law
Release Date: December 17, 2007
Dear Greenburgh Residents,
This message is directed to residents and businesses on East Hartsdale Avenue, and others who may park on the avenue. The Town Board, at Police Chief John Kapica's request, will be considering rescinding the new parking regulations on East Hartsdale Avenue (EHA) this evening at its Town Board meeting, which starts at 7:15 PM. The Town Board adopted the new regulations at the urging of some EHA residents in order to alleviate some of the parking problems on the avenue. What follows is a letter the Town Board received from Chief Kapica regarding the first snow emergency, declared last Thursday. After the second snow emergency was declared yesterday due to the ice conditions, I asked Chief Kapica if his opinion had changed. In fact, the brief second snow emergency further reinforced his opinion to immediately repeal the new snow parking regulations for East Hartsdale Avenue.
The negative impacts that were predicted and expressed at Town Board meetings became reality, even during these relatively brief snow emergencies. The impact was significant on the businesses on East Hartsdale Avenue whose customers could not park on the avenue, the permit-holding commuters whose parking spaces were taken by those needing a parking space during the snow emergency, Hartsdale Parking Authority resources, Police Department resources, DPW, those who had vehicles parked on the avenue during the snow emergencies who received tickets, etc. The Town Board listened to the residents and tried their potential partial solution to the serious parking problems on East Hartsdale Avenue. Now it is time to reconsider the law and find other remedies.
The new law changed the snow parking regulations for East Hartsdale Avenue so vehicles need not be removed overnight from the metered spaces unless a "snow emergency" is declared by the Greenburgh Chief of Police. Once declared, no vehicles can be parked on East Hartsdale Avenue until the snow emergency is lifted. Violators face $150 fines, plus towing costs. Essentially everywhere else in the unincorporated area of the town vehicles must be removed from 1:00 AM to 6:00 AM every night regardless of weather conditions so the roadways remain clear should plowing be necessary overnight. If the new law for East Hartsdale Avenue is repealed, the every-night 1:00 AM to 6:00 AM parking ban would again apply to East Hartsdale Avenue as it did in the past.
A suggestion has been made that the EHA-specific “snow emergency” law continue but the meters in front of the businesses be exempt from the regulations. Both the Police Chief and the Commissioner of Public Works have stated that that modification won't work. In fact, Chief Kapica’s states in his letter below that the law cannot be fixed!
Should you have any comments or suggestions regarding this matter, the Town Board would like to hear from you. You may simply reply to this email or email the entire Town Board at TownBoard@GreenburghNY.com.
Francis Sheehan, Councilman
Town of Greenburgh
To: Supervisor Paul Feiner and Honorable Members of the Greenburgh Town Board
From: John A. Kapica, Chief of Police
Subject: New Snow Parking regulations for East Hartsdale Avenue
Date: December 14, 2007
As each of you know, during the late morning hours on Thursday, December 13, a significant storm struck the Town of Greenburgh. That event caused the Police Department to initiate the provisions of recently enacted legislation to ensure that accumulating snow was removed from East Hartsdale Avenue, where the Snow Parking regulations applying to virtually the entire balance of the Town, do not apply. This provided an opportunity for the Police Department to evaluate the viability of the new law. As further detailed in this memo, it is my conclusion that, the new Snow Parking regulations for East Hartsdale Avenue do not work and the Town Board should immediately consider rescinding them. I know this is a contentious issue and although I realize this suggestion may create even more controversy, I feel I must make the Board aware of my concerns.
In response to Winter Storm Warning that was issued by the National Weather Service and as provided for in legislation recently enacted by the Town Board, the Police Department undertook the following steps.
1. Declaration of a Snow Emergency – In an attempt to minimize the impact on the merchants and professional offices located in the apartments on East Hartsdale Avenue, the notice that a Snow Emergency was going to be declared was not made until snow actually began to fall at 11:30 a.m. Notwithstanding the fact that the snow was initially extremely heavy, the notice indicated that a Snow Emergency was being declared that would take effect at 12:30 p.m., one hour after snow began falling. This was accomplished by first placing a message on the department’s Snow Hotline (682-5387). Subsequent to this, at 11:39 an email message was forwarded to Gblist members advising that the Snow Emergency had been declared, when it would take effect and further advising that no parking would be allowed on East Hartsdale Avenue during the period the declaration was in effect and further that vehicles in violation would be summonsed and towed. WFAS Radio and News 12 were also immediately notified and these media continued to make public service announcements throughout the day advising of it. Additionally, beginning at about 12:00 noon and up until about 1:15 p.m., officers were assigned to East Hartsdale Avenue to walk the street advising merchants that a Snow Emergency had been declared and requesting they ask their customers to remove their vehicles from the street. At about 1:20 p.m. there were still about 30 vehicles parked on the street and officers began issuing summonses. Since DPW was, up to this point, only salting, a decision was made not to tow vehicles until plowing was necessary.
2. Effect on Parking Authority Parking Areas – From noon on Ms. Kavourias was in contact with me by email advising me what the effect of vehicles leaving the avenue was having on her operations. Copies of those emails are attached to this memo. Suffice it to say that the operations of the Parking District were adversely affected.
3. DPW Plowing Operations – There came a time that the DPW Commissioner advised us that his trucks would need to begin plowing operations on the avenue. He actually provided us with ninety minutes advance notice, which was most appreciated as there continued to be vehicles parked on the avenue, whose owners we were attempting to contact. We did not actually summon a tow truck for an additional hour and fifteen minutes. Fortunately, although tows were called for a number of vehicles, none were actually towed as the owners claimed their vehicles before it was actually removed.
4. Summonses Issued by Police Department Personnel – During the period the declaration was in effect, Police Department personnel issued a total of twenty-one (21) tickets, each carrying a fine of $150. Many more could have been issued if we had not kept officers on the avenue to discourage people from parking. The total fines associated with these tickets is $3,150. This is the equivalent of issuing 210 summonses under the previous parking rules. The number of tickets issued by employees of the Hartsdale Parking District is not known at this time.
5. Rescinding the Declaration – The DPW Commissioner and I discussed how notification of the completion of snow removal operations on East Hartsdale Avenue would be transmitted to us. He advised that when this occurred, our Main Desk would be notified. At about 9:00 p.m., the Highway Department advised us that their operations were complete. Our officers were immediately advised to cease enforcement and resume normal patrol operations and a message indicating the declaration was rescinded was then placed on our hotline, which was immediately followed by notifications to WFAS and News 12. The final thing that was done at 9:12 p.m., was the forwarding of an email to Gblist members advising the declaration had been rescinded at 9:00 p.m. but cautioning people that a second storm was forecasted for Saturday into Sunday that might require a subsequent declaration.
6. Impact on Police Operations – Enforcement of the ordinance was personnel intensive. At times, as many as four officers were assigned to the avenue. As with most other storms of this nature, we were extremely busy investigating accidents and performing other routine police department functions. Not having these officers available for that purpose adversely affected these operations. To help offset this, officers were relieved of their responsibilities in other divisions and assigned to answer calls and perform other patrol functions.
Misinterpretation of the Law – It was suggested by some people that the law did not apply to the spaces in the proximity of the retail establishments on the avenue and only the residential buildings. This assumption is erroneous. From the onset, the law was meant to apply to all metered spaces on East Hartsdale Avenue. The potential adverse effect this would have on merchants was clearly delineated in my memo to the Board, which accompanied the first draft of the law (copy attached). I also testified to this fact at the Public Hearings that were held. In addition to this, every merchant on East Hartsdale Avenue was provided a Notice indicating that the proposed new law would affect ALL residents and retailers on East Hartsdale Avenue (copy attached).
Can the Law Be Fixed? No, it cannot. There has been a suggestion that the law can be drafted in such a way to exempt or provide relief to merchants along the avenue. This is not possible without creating other problems! If this were done, these spaces would be available for residents to park their vehicles as well, eliminating most of the benefit to retailers. Moreover, this would hamper snow removal operations and, presuming these spaces would fall under the old ordinance so that snow could somehow be removed, would eliminate half the overnight parking for residents that was the intent of the law to provide. You may recall a resident proponent of the law indicated that the 82 spaces along the avenue were not enough and that the law should be expanded town wide. Moreover, such a change would be unfair to the dozens of doctors’ and other professional offices that are located within the high-rise buildings along the avenue.
Summary – This law is a mistake and the responsibility for its adoption is primarily mine because I failed to stand by my belief that this would cause more problems then it addressed. There is no doubt a shortage of “convenient” off-street parking on East Hartsdale Avenue exists. While this law appears to somewhat address this problem, I believe it will actually create a greater hardship for residents and retailers then it corrects. This winter season has the potential for a number of storms, each of which will result in tickets being issued. You may recall that one of the arguments against the old ordinance was that vehicles were routinely ticketed on East Hartsdale Avenue for Snow Parking violations. I can absolutely assure you that the amount of revenue realized by the Town under the new legislation will exponentially exceed that previously realized. The illegal parking of vehicles in the Parking District’ sites will also be a consequence of retaining the new law as will the continued loss of revenue to the District, damage to the economy of East Hartsdale Avenue and finally the waste of scarce and valuable police resources.
Notwithstanding my belief, should the Board opt to keep the law in place, I absolutely assure you that we will do our very best to enforce it in as fair-minded a manner as is possible without compromising the public safety.
John A. Kapica
Chief of Police