Ridgewood High School students soon won't have the option of parking at Heermance Place even if they wake at the crack of dawn.
On Wednesday night, the Ridgewood council agreed to grant the school district's request that public parking on the street abutting the high school only be available to teachers Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Citing increasing enrollment figures, Ridgewood superintendent Daniel Fishbein – joined by school board president Sheila Brogan – told the council the district simply cannot accommodate parking for the number of teachers employed at the district's largest building.
Per Fishbein's figures, there are parking 186 spaces on campus, 8 of which are handicap spots. That's met by 215 staff members on payroll, as well as custodians and food service personnel.
The utter lack of spaces is problematic he said, and not just for teachers.
“That causes people in a rush to park illegally and get tickets in our parking lot,” he said.
Under the mantra that teachers should be able to park where they work, Mayor Paul Aronsohn, Councilwoman Gwenn Hauck and Deputy Mayor Albert Pucciarelli agreed to cede 23 spots on Heermance Place during the school week.
Mayor Paul Aronsohn reversed his stance from that of a year ago, citing new figures that were "not available" when Fishbein made a similar request last winter.
“I’m a firm believer this is the right thing to do,” Aronsohn said. “If you work somewhere, you should have the ability to park there.”
In addition, teachers will be allowed to park on the southern side of Beverly Place during school hours. According to Fishbein, the takeover will free up between 5-10 spaces for visitors at the main lot. It's much needed, said Aronsohn.
“That is key,” the mayor told Patch Thursday. “Right now, parents have a very difficult time parking at the school.”
The prior council voted unanimously to shoot down the school district's request this past spring (which did not include the Beverly Road component), but sang a different tune this time around.
In dissent, Councilwoman Bernadette Walsh on Wednesday said she thought the teachers should walk from the Graydon lot instead of the public being marginalized.
It's a ten minute walk, she said, instructing teachers to "get there 10 minutes early."
“I feel very strongly on this that the spots on the street are for the public,” Walsh said. “They’re not supposed to be private spots.”
Councilman Tom Riche agreed, saying he worried saying yes would create a precedent. Perhaps another business, Riche reasoned, will see the opportunity to have public streets serve private interests, creating a snowball effect.
According to Riche, the BOE also didn't do its homework on this one.
They made no attempt to explore other solutions, he said, panning the request. Resident Boyd Loving latched onto that point, telling the council the district's parking problem was precisely that – the district's problem. He, like his wife Anne, said the school board has not even considered other options to open up parking.
“What makes the teahcers more important than the students?” Anne Loving pondered. “Let them exhaust options then come to you,” Boyd added.
School board trustee Jim Morgan – who lives on Beverly Road – told Patch Thursday morning he was surprised to hear the council grant the request.
The discussion has not come up at the school board, let alone agreed to, he said.
Morgan didn't express much issue with the parking takeover on Heermance Place, but felt strongly about the Beverly opening.
“The idea of parking on Beverly has not been discussed by the board since I was elected,” he told Patch. “I am surprised that the superintendent and BOE President have apparently supported this proposal that, in my opinion, poses serious safety risks to the kids. There are other, safer options available.”
Morgan did not offer any specific alternatives.
The council has agreed to include input from neighbors and other citizens going forward. There will be public hearings for an ordinance vote, potentially coming in January.
What do you think of the council majority's giveaway to the school district? Comment below!