By GWEN OREL
Until a sign went up in the Midtown Parking Lot saying it would be closed on Jan. 4, some local businesses had no idea it was happening.
Dimitry Banjanski, of Trend Coffee & Tea House, 411 Bloomfield Ave., said that while the township let businesses know a year ago that it would be working on this, businesses found out from seeing a sign that went up on the lot.
“We need at least a month ahead of time to give us time to make plans,” Banjanski said. He is very worried his business will suffer: People will no longer be walking in the alley to the parking lot behind the building, and stopping to get a coffee.
The last-minute nature of the rollout has been unprofessional, he said.
For Dr. Elizabeth Houston, a veterinarian at Cameron Animal Hospital, 417 Bloomfield Ave., the changes in parking amount to a disaster.
Houston said that the closed lots on South Fullerton and South Willow have not been replaced by new spots, as had been promised.
The Parking Utility told her that the new decks behind the Wellmont would have public parking, in the form of day passes for $7 or $20 (if the day is designated event parking), a huge price hike from what had been $.25 for half an hour.
In addition, there is an overall reduction in spots for the handicapped: While spots on Bloomfield Avenue will be designated loading zones and for the handicapped, according to the town, that will not benefit handicapped employees.
And senior clients cannot carry a cat or dog several blocks from Church Street to drop it off, Houston said.
“Small businesses are hanging on by a thread,” she said. “This parking dearth is going to kill them.”
Today, Dec. 31, Manny Germano, superintendent of the Parking Utility, is visiting local businesses to update them, according to township Communications Director Katya Wowk.
Wowk denied that small businesses had been notified just this week, stating that construction was originally supposed to begin in October but had been pushed back.
The Montclair Center Business Improvement District was notified so that, she said, constituents would not need to worry about parking over the holidays.
BID has not responded to Montclair Local requests for comment.
Local businesses are also concerned about parking spots in front of their buildings being used for construction dumpsters. Township officials have said that businesses can request that dumpsters not to be placed there.
However, refuse that was once picked up in back of businesses will now be picked up in front of them.
Most of the affected area on Bloomfield Avenue will be a giant loading zone, according to officials. They will all be accessible as handicapped parking for drop-off and pickup.
The township has not commented on an overall loss of handicapped parking due to lot closings, and how this will affect handicapped employees who need longer-term parking.
Businesses will be given permits for the Crescent and North Fullerton parking decks for the duration, township officials say.
The Crescent deck is a good hike from the Cameron Animal Hospital, Houston said.
One of the big concerns is that the new deck that abuts the Wellmont Theater is not open yet, and does not have a temporary certificate of occupancy. The developer has told the township it would not fence in the Midtown lot until that deck is up and running, township officials said.
Houston said that the consultant had said 162 temporary spots would be created, and that has not happened.
“I understand the need for reconstruction and redevelopment,” she said. “All we’re asking is that while they’re taking away these municipal spots that they create alternatives, and not tell people to park in over-full lots.”
There is already a long waiting list for permits for the lots, she said. She worries not only about permit spots, but about patrons and clients.
“Small businesses are terrified,” Houston said. “The stress of the situation and this year has been pretty awful. We want the town to support the small businesses that support the town, and make it what it is.”