Newburgh business owners: Cashless parking meters are driving away customers

Local business owners testified before the City Council last Monday, asking them to review and ultimately change the parking meter system.

Ben Nandy

Jun 4, 2024, 10:45 PM

Updated 8 days ago


Some business owners are lobbying Newburgh leaders to get rid of the city's cashless parking meter system – claiming that the meters intimidate and chase away customers.
Several drivers told News 12 they are not keen on the meters either. College student Rodney Phaire wishes he could just drop a dime in a meter instead of swiping a credit card. He is concerned about increasing his exposure to potential data breaches.
"It's giving away too much information just for a time limit on parking," he said. "Just for 15 minutes of parking? No."
The meters also confuse some less tech-savvy drivers. A couple spent several minutes at a meter outside the Broadway attempting to pay, but ended up shrugging and walking away.
"Why are we making it so difficult for people to come here and spend their money?," asked Mikey Jackson, owner of 2 Alices Coffee Lounge on Broadway.
Jackson and other business owners testified before the City Council last Monday, asking them to review and ultimately change the parking meter system. Jackson said that since the meters were installed in early 2022 he has noticed the cafe's sales flatten or dip during this time of year, but previously the numbers would tick up.
"I don't want to fully blame the meters," Jackson said, "but we do get constant complaints about them. People don't know how to use them. They're confusing."
Mayor Torrance Harvey and three other council members said at the meeting they are willing to revisit the meter system. Harvey mentioned possibilities of discounts for business owners to prepay for customers' parking and parking passes for some city residents.
Harvey said administrators have told him to expect the meters to generate an estimated $500,000 a year to be held in the city's general fund to help cover shortfalls in other areas of government, prevent water and sewer fee increases and help prevent layoffs of city employees.
Exact numbers were not available Tuesday, though Harvey said he has requested them from the city comptroller. The initial investment in the meter system, he said, was just under $1 million.
"These are funds from the general fund to pay water and sanitation without raising without hiking up those rates – That's another challenge," he said, adding that administrators are considering hiking certain fees for city services.
Harvey said he and the rest of council will "troubleshoot" based on last Monday's testimony from business owners, though he fully supports the cashless system for several reasons.
He said the system makes accounting easier and prevents theft by city employees who would otherwise be handling large amounts of money in coins.
"No one was counting the coins," Harvey said, and the bank would simply weigh the coins and approximate the total.

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