Monday, May 29, 2006

Cracks in the pavement

With large swaths of pavement sinking into the substructure of the city-owned 45-space parking lot on the main drag on Broadway, it seems that Saratoga Springs' five-member council is taking a rather laid back approach to fixing a problem that could easily be viewed as serious.

And after hearing the years of panic over a lack of downtown parking spaces and the uproarious zeal to create a multi-million dollar deck on Woodlawn Avenue, one would almost expect the council itself to be underneath the lot with two-by-fours trying to prop the sagging structure back up. At the very least, one would think the closure might prompt the announcement of a special council meeting after the commisioners put down their Memorial Day beers this week.

Instead, the lot was ordered closed indefinitely by long-time Public Works Commissioner Tommy McTygue, who now claims there are “some real problems” with the structure. It’s almost as if there weren’t any serious issues before, when deep fissures formed in the pavement and a crew of engineers was called into to evaluate the integrity of the structure –all while a steady procession of vehicles continued to park there.

But when the four parcels comprising the lot are valued at $648,700 –an amount that could easily triple with any sort of commercial or mixed-use development –the alluring scent of money wafting around the flailing parking deck is clearly detectible, if not omnipresent. Not to mention, the thought of developing a parcel of land with more than 16,000 square feet of prime street-level real estate probably has area contractors salivating like a pack of starved jackals at a pig roast.

It seems saving the heavily used central parking deck is the last thing the Spa City’s leadership wants to do, given the potential windfall that could be gained by throwing the property back on tax rolls. Of course, local business owners will have to suck it up as usual. More than likely, they won't benefit this summer from having the nearby lot, a development which could proove to be the final nail in the coffin for many shopkeeps, spurring a new round of shuttered storefronts to appear on the already flailing Broadway streetscape.

To save face, the city council can claim the deck repairs will cost too much during the summer's construction frenzy and take too long anyway, outlasting any possible parking relief during the racing season. Then in September, when the last tourist files out of the city, they can move forward with plans to auction the property for development.

Perhaps even more troubling is McTygue’s description of the lot being old and in need of replacement only a sparse 30 years after being built. In that case, the city should start squirreling away some money to replace the Phila Street parking deck, which by this thinking, will need to be replaced in 2029. By that time, it’s predicted people will start calling asphalt black gold and start trading it at open markets like the natives once did with wampum.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Alger:

While I understand your concern about the lack of available parking spaces on Broadway for tourists et al., I think I may have come up with the right solution. Go ahead and auction off the crumbling parking lot and infuse the public coffers with much needed funds, and then set up an elaborate valet service operated by all the restaurant workers when they aren't busy. Here is how it works: have somebody positioned by the window, say a host or busboy, and then when a car pulls up to a designated valet "station," then this person will give a couple of shrill whisltes and somebody from the restaurant can run out and park the car where ever. Keep 'em busy, I say.

Or instead, how about human driven rickshaws to get people downtown? These are just thoughts.

In the meantime, I say we address this terrible parking lot situation before some wayward child falls into one of these yawning fissures and is never found again!


3:39 AM  

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