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Parking around SUNY Cortland troublesome, residents say

A SUNY Cortland student walks from her car Tuesday after parking along James Street in Cortland.

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

A SUNY Cortland student walks from her car Tuesday after parking along James Street in Cortland.

When the topic of parking in the city is brought up, people might tend to think about how easily they can find a spot close to their favorite place downtown. But it’s parking in residential areas that can be more difficult and, at times, more frustrating.

Jo Schaffer lives on Pearl Street, next to the SUNY Cortland campus. At a Common Council meeting several months ago, she asked the Police Department if it had any idea of how much revenue was being generated in parking tickets.

She said Tuesday her curiosity stemmed from how often college students and staff seem to disregard parking signs and other rules for keeping her street clear, and she wanted to know how much action is being taken.

“People were parking … across driveways and there’s no place to turn around because the street is narrow,” she said. “The southern side (of Pearl Street) is two-hour parking. I’ve got people … who say there’s cars there all day.”

Lincoln Avenue resident Anne Doyle echoed that sentiment Tuesday, saying she often sees cars parked where they are not supposed to be. As chair of the 2nd Ward’s neighborhood watch group, she said other residents have noticed that, too.

“The thing that’s aggravating more than anything is that they park right below the ‘no parking’ sign,” Doyle said. “I had one kid parked on the wrong side of the street and he got four tickets.”

Police Chief F. Michael Catalano said Tuesday officers are always on the lookout for parking violations when they are on duty. He said the issue simply is that there are more people in the city when college is in session, not that officers are not patrolling areas vigilantly.

“When we get more people back in the town this time of year, there’s more vehicles,” he said. “Usually there’s more illegal parking that goes along with it. We just remind our officers to keep an eye on those areas that are marked with restrictive zones.”

Catalano said the department typically notices an uptick in parking violations at the start of the school year. Constant enforcement and educating people on the rules usually brings that number down, he said.

He added he wasn’t aware of any parts of the city where parking is a persistent problem. In fact, he said, the number of parking violations officers have seen has been generally on the decline.

“Our annual parking ticket numbers have actually decreased each year,” Catalano said. “The nice thing about parking violations is that they’re pretty similar in every community. So people abide.”

Mayor Brian Tobin said Tuesday that when parking stops being a nuisance and becomes a safety concern the city prioritizes addressing the issue.

“It’s not unusual for us (the city) to get complaints about parking,” Tobin said. “When there’s a problem, we fix them. When there’s an inconvenience, we try to work through them as best we can.”

He referenced how back in June, due to visibility issues, the Common Council moved to restrict parking on the south end of Prospect Terrace to about 75 feet east from where the road intersects with Calvert Street.

In February, the city also passed an ordinance banning parking along the south side of Madison Street near Halbert Street. This was done in response to concerns about student safety given traffic and congestion that had been a problem near Parker Elementary School.

Tobin said, ultimately, he thinks it is better that residents rely less on the law to address inconveniences and instead focus on being courteous and working with each other to resolve issues.

“Sometimes different people have different expectations,” he said. “Part of being in a community and being in a neighborhood is being able to sometimes adjust our expectations so that we all get along.”

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