April 30, 2010

Hairston's budget will pay fare on controversial meters

Funds from Fifth Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston’s menu budget will be used to pay the fare on newly-installed meters at parking spots at the East 63rd Street beach this summer.

Hairston told her constituents at a meeting at Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church on South Blackstone Avenue and East 66th Place Tuesday, where residents voiced concerns about the newly installed parking meters, which have been installed along the lakeshore in the Fifth Ward.

“I don’t like the fact that the meters are there, period. I hate the idea that we’ll have to pay for the meters in the parks,” Fifth Ward resident Myra Garrett said.

No Chicago Park District employees attended the meeting, although Hairston said one was supposed to come to the meeting to answer questions. The park district is responsible for installing the meters; Standard Parking is under a three-year lease with the Chicago Park District, and about 4,000 meters will be installed in Chicago, a representative of the company said at the meeting.

Although Hairston was told by the park district of the plans to install parking meters in certain areas, she didn’t expect meters on the lakeshore. “[The park district] said that [they were] going to put parking meters at the South Shore Cultural Center and at the 63rd Street Beach,” Hairston said, adding that she had been reassured that these were the only two areas that would have meters installed. “They didn’t have authority for additional locations.”

Park district spokesperson Jessica Maxey-Faulkner said in The Hyde Park Herald on April 14 that the lakeshore parking meter plans were announced in 2008, but Hairston said information about the changes was not properly disseminated to residents.

David Hoyt, a contributor to the blog Hyde Park Progress, disagreed that the parking meters were a problem in an April 14 post. “Parking spots in all parks are subsidized by city taxpayers even if they themselves don’t use those spots,” he wrote. “Making parking free amounts to a first-come first-serve policy that does not equitably distribute the resource.”

Hairston said she will keep fighting against the meters. “This is one of the things that the City has consistently done and one of the things that not only am I consistently frustrated with, but try to fight against.”

Hairston said the beach should be as accessible as possible to all Chicagoans, regardless of their means. ”I think that in this economy, with it being as horrible as it is, it’s terrible that you’re going to start making families pay when they. . . go to the beach,” she said.