South Orange Village and Seton Hall University have come to an agreement after several parking incidents which left the community of Tuxedo Park outraged.
Complaints from residents prompted a discussion between Village and University officials after a rear campus gate was opened and a flood of cars filled every vacant space in the surrounding streets.
University security were directing traffic on residential streets, and in some instances, directing drivers to turn around in driveways, which residents caught on video.
More than two dozen residents attended the South Orange Village Board of Trustees meeting on Monday, Sept. 9 to demand solutions. Residents spoke about parking on both sides of the street making the roads so narrow that school buses had to drop off students in the middle of the street. Emergency vehicles would never be able to get through, they said.
Trustee Sheena Collum suggested they temporarily only allow parking on one side of every street in Tuxedo Park, saying they needed an “immediate proactive solution.”
Village President Alex Torpey disagreed saying it would only create further parking problems for the residents.
After a back and forth between Torpey and the Trustees, it was ultimately decided to let the police and fire departments close one side of each street. The open side of the streets will still be subject to village parking ordinances, said Collum.
The parking problem in Tuxedo Park is due to an “unexpectedly large amount of students needing parking permits,” said Torpey, who added that the Village and University agreed on short term, medium term and long term solutions.
“Seton Hall University takes seriously the concerns of our South Orange neighbors,” said University Spokesperson Laurie Pine. “The University anticipated the changing student demands in terms of the need for additional parking with our strengthening enrollments. That is why we began designs for an expanded parking deck with 594 spaces. We have just received approval from the Board of Adjustment to move forward on the project.”
The expanded parking deck is part of the long-term solution and is not anticipated to be completed until fall of 2014.
In the meantime, the campus gate at Center Street will not be opened again, and students have been instructed not to use Tuxedo Park for parking.
If the gate were to open again, the South Orange Police Department will close it with a police barricade, said Torpey.
Part of the medium-term solution is to shuttle University employees and contractors from other locations, like the pool parking lot, freeing up more spaces for students.
The Village Administration will also extend student permit parking along the Eastbound side of South Orange Avenue by a few hundred feet. Pending approval from the county, this could add another 15 to 12 spaces, added Torpey.
Students will also be able to park on Ward Place on the campus side of the street so there are no cars in front of houses. Another plan is to allow student parking on various campus fields.
“We are trying to find ways to help them with this because their problems are our problems,” said Torpey. “What has been going on at Tuxedo park is unacceptable.”
However, the parking issue is just a symptom of a much larger problem, several residents said during the public portion of Monday's meeting.
“I am appalled with (the University's) behavior but that is the pattern,” said 34-year Varsity Road resident Jeff Greenwald. “They consistently violate ordinance and do things without regard for the community. There are several instances, this is just the latest. There was no regard for safety or quality of life in the neighborhood and there has been a consistent lack of dialogue for the past 38 years.”
“I hope these solutions will work but I have my doubts based on 34 years of experience,” he added to applause from the public.
Several residents urged the Board to revise the parking ordinances in Tuxedo Park so that all streets have a two-hour parking limit.
“The word is out and (students) know they can park there,” said Stacy of Mercer Place. “Please do something to bring quiet back to our neighborhoods, kids cant ride bikes, school buses cant get down the streets.”
Although the Board will discuss the parking ordinances, Torpey says he remains “optimistic (the parking solutions) will solve the problem for our residents and also be helpful and supporting of Seton Hall.”
“We look forward to working with South Orange in a cordial and neighborly way,” said Pine.