Last summer North Street business owner of nearly 40 years, Amir Sadighi, implored Mayor Linda Tyer to jettison plans to install the now established parking meters on North Street. At the time, Mayor Tyer wasn’t available to speak to him, Sadighi said. The Pittsfield resident of 50 years, instead, spoke with her assistant. “I told her exactly what I tell you. The meter is not necessary. It kills the business,” said Sadighi, owner of Custom Window Treatments at 88 North Street.
“By [reconstructing] this sidewalk, curving every intersection – that was the biggest mistake. Their excuse is to slow down the traffic. Are you kidding me? What traffic? You can hardly see any,” he said as he pointed out the window. “This isn’t Los Angeles,” he continued. No, it’s not.
After the completion last year of city project Streetscape, the city lost 37 parking spots. Two of these spots were in front of the YMCA building at 292 North Street, and four were in front of Hotel on North, located directly across from YMCA building, according to Randy Kinnas, YMCA CEO and executive director. “It’s definitely an area of concern for our members,” Kinnas said of the parking measures. The YMCA’s senior members have expressed the most concern, he said. With a membership rate of $32 per month, the daily use of the parking meters can double, or even outweigh, seniors’ membership fees.
Most members of the YMCA park on Melville Street, where parking is free for three hours, on North Street visitors may park free for up to 30 minutes. “But, if the city decides to charge for those first 30 minutes in the future,” said Kinnas, “The YMCA will consider relocating. People aren’t going to pay their membership fee and an additional $30, $40, $50 for parking,” he said. “If that were the case, one thought would be turning this [building] into housing and then finding an additional place to do our childcare and membership stuff. I’m actually meeting with the mayor on Friday. I don’t think she realizes the impact.”
Many residents are still adjusting to the new system, which began on January 3. The digital system, which isn’t exactly user friendly, requires a license plate number, along with a credit card or coins – no bills. “I just had a customer who didn’t want to park [on the street], so he parked far and walked,” Sadighi said. “The weather is getting bad. It’s not for customers.”
Chris Vaber, the assistant manager of the Beacon Cinema, echoed this statement.
“There was one freezing cold day last week and it got to the point where customers had just given up [with the meters],” he said. To ease the transition, the Beacon Cinema will indefinitely reimburse patrons $1 when shown a parking slip.
Lydia Shulman, manager of the Beacon Cinema, said the theater implemented the reimbursement policy to prevent parking frustrations and show customers the theatre cares about them. “The policy allows the Beacon Cinema to compete with the Regal Berkshire Mall theater,” Shulman said.
Marketplace Café patron, Linda Dulye of Lanesborough, expressed bleak thoughts on the paid parking system as she watched a dispute between a meter maid and a parked driver outside. “This is a catastrophe,” Dulye said. “I’m not going to pay to park downtown; it doesn’t suit my doing business. So now I park three or four blocks away. It has significantly altered my pattern. I used to park on North Street all the time. But I have to look at the positive,” she said. “It’s adding to my Fitbit routine. But, that’s not for everybody.”
“[They city] is supposed to promote businesses,” Sadighi said. “What do we have in downtown Pittsfield? We don’t have anything here – lots of banks, lots of lawyers’ offices. We don’t offer anything for a young generation. People would rather go to Northampton or Springfield.”