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June 20, 2013

Paid parking upsetting merchants

Software glitches resolved; village stressing finances

Entering the third week of the new paid parking system, the software glitches have apparently been fixed, but the bad feelings among many local merchants have not been soothed.

“Up on Main Street, we are calling it Katz’s folly,” said Fred Lemister, the owner of Rudy’s Liquor Store, alluding to Cooperstown Mayor Jeff Katz. “I have yet to find a merchant to say a good thing about paid parking.”

Lemister said that his business, which has been owned by his family since the 1940s, is down about $100 a day in June compared to 2012 revenues. He said he attributes the drop to local customers deciding not to pay for parking, adding that the problems are greater for businesses like his that are not tourist focused.

Paid parking “is everything we said it would be, a detriment to business,” Lemister said. 

“We rely on local customers, but the local customers are not shopping here right now,” he continued. “They say they won’t pay money to park just so they can shop in our store. I can’t blame them, I wouldn’t pay to park so I could shop in my store either. People have been saying, ‘We pay taxes to the village. We shouldn’t have to pay to park also.’”

Katz said he understands the anger of some merchants.

“To pin it on me is fine, I am the mayor,” he said. “I understand if the anger is directed at me.”

Katz said that he is concerned about the health of local businesses, but that he is also concerned about the overall health of the village. This week he released a 10-point “brief synopsis of Cooperstown finances” to help explain the need for paid parking in the tourist season.

“The village government has to be a sustainable system,” he said. “No one says the roads and sidewalks are fine and the village shouldn’t worry about fixing them. It is the question of how do we do this that people have different opinions about.”

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