Concerns about parking in Hartford

By JOE VANDELAARSCHOT - Daily News

July 11, 2014

 This photo taken Thursday shows the fenced-in construction area behind Hartford’s City Hall. Many of the parking spaces in this lot will be lost for parking once the construction project is completed. A downtown businessman has raised concerns over the number of spaces that will no longer be available for customers of downtown businesses.    
Joe VanDeLaarschot/Daily News

HARTFORD - In the words of one Hartford businessman, the city’s final plan for parking behind City Hall, “just doesn’t make sense.”

Tom Niebler owns a building next door to city hall and understands the need for as many downtown parking spaces as possible. He isn’t happy with the city’s plan which he says will eliminate about 20 parking spots once the ongoing city hall renovation and construction is completed.

“We (the downtown Business Improvement District) suddenly found out, with no communication from the city beforehand, that they want to eliminate these parking spaces,” Niebler said. “And when I asked to talk to city officials about it I was basically told ‘it’s a done deal, it’s going to happen and whatever you say won’t change that.’” Niebler contends because of the City Hall project City Hall employees will also be losing places to park.

”So they’ll have to park in other parking spaces, which in effect will eliminate about another 20 parking spaces for use by downtown customers,” Niebler said. “It seems city officials too often have the attitude that whatever they want to do we shouldn’t worry about it because they are going to do it anyway whether we like it or not.”

Third District Alderman Rachel Mixon said she wants to investigate Niebler’s claims and determine what exactly the city’s final parking plan will mean for downtown after the City Hall construction is completed. She said she will try to view the plans before she draws any final conclusion.

“I know they will be losing several spots when the police garage is extended,” Mixon said. “I know when you lose parking it makes the hair stand up on the back of the neck of people in the downtown. I know city employees have been very good about not parking in places where downtown customers could park.

“I think it’s the city’s responsibility to make sure there is enough parking for the businesses downtown,” Mixon said. “We need to be creative and find additional parking somewhere.”

Niebler said members of the BID board had tried to have a meeting with City Administrator Gary Koppelberger and other city officials, but he said he received a call that said the meeting was not going to occur “because it wouldn’t do any good anyway. The plan was going to happen.”

Niebler said he doesn’t think many City Hall officials have a real handle on what’s happening with Hartford’s downtown.

“I very seldom see people from City Hall shopping or eating in the downtown so how can they understand the parking problem?” Niebler said.

Third District Alderman Barry Wintringer said he and Mixon are attempting to coordinate a meeting between city and BID district officials to discuss the issue.

“We’re trying to schedule the meeting for as early as next week,” Wintringer said. “We’re hoping the meeting will be fruitful.”

Wintringer said the city is in the process of adding another eight parking spaces along Johnson Street where restrictions were previously in place.

Calls were placed to both City Administrator Gary Koppelberger and City Planner Justin Drew seeking information and comment. They did not return those phone calls before publication deadline.