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Business Owners, Residents Address Strand Street Parking Problems

May 11, 2006 – Turning Strand Street into a one-way thoroughfare or allowing metered parking were among some of the recommendations business owners and residents made during a two-hour-long meeting Thursday at St. Gerard's Hall in Frederiksted.
An estimated 60 people, including officials from the Public Finance Authority, Public Works and V.I. Police Department, were present to hear the recommendations for alleviating traffic snarls and inadequate parking in Strand Street.
At issue is the loss of 18 parking spaces on the two-way street which previously accommodated parking on both sides. However, with the street's recent renovation, parking has been restricted to just one side of the road and eventually turned into a no-parking zone.
Territorial Police Chief Novelle Francis Jr. called the Thursday night meeting in light of what he termed "blatant violations" that forced police officers to issue tickets and then ban parking on the street altogether. He said that in some instances motorists and some business owners parked vehicles on the brick-decorated sidewalks meant for pedestrians.
Al Franklin, president of Our Town Frederiksted, said that business owners wrote to the organization to complain about being ticketed. He added that residents also wanted to meet with government officials to reach an amicable solution.
Recommendations were split among business owners and residents. Most business owners who are also Our Town members — like Robert Merwin of Merwin Shipping — were in favor of making Strand Street one-way. Most residents, however, were opposed.
"Everybody isn't going to agree," Franklin said. "If you want growth you have to change. We've been held back too long because we balk at change."
Mary Moorhead said that the idea of a one-way street has been kicked around for years.
"Frederiksted doesn't want one-ways," she said, adding that she was talking on behalf of residents, many of whom couldn't attend Thursday night's meeting. Others spoke against making the street one-way, and resident Hortense Rowe said that Strand Street was made into a two-way because engineers who designed the Christiansted roads learned from making too many of the streets one-way.
"Frederiksted is a newer town and so it was designed that way," she said.
Franklin, a longtime resident, whose agreement with business owners to turn the street into one-way puts him at odds with residents, also suggested that if parking is to be returned to Strand Street that it should be metered.
"The people who wrote to us – that is what they want to see," Franklin said of a one-way street. "It makes sense because this is a small town."
Business owner Catherine Durant agreed with Franklin's suggestion for limits on parking.
"If you decide to go back to parking on Strand Street, it must be metered," she said. "As business owners, we have to divorce ourselves from parking on Strand Street."
Many business owners lamented lost business which has resulted from the police crackdown.
Business owner and former Public Works Director Ann E. Abramson said that the issue of inadequate parking on Strand Street could be easily solved and said essentially that the business owners are their own worst enemy because they take up the parking that could be left for customers.
"We have to have one-hour parking. If you start with that, you will see a big difference," she said to Chief Francis.
Abramson said that very often the owners and employees of businesses along Strand Street park in the areas that should be reserved for customers, even going as far as placing chairs in the parking spots, so that no one else gets the space.
"If all the business owners and employees park there, where would customers park?" she said. "We don't need no one-way street. When we come to work in Frederiksted, we have no right to be parking in front our door."
She said that business owners and their employees should have a designated area for parking but not on Strand Street.
Former Sen. Bent Lawaetz, who weighed in on the subject, said that Coastal Systems Development, the company hired by the Public Finance Authority to complete the project, promised parking spaces near the Frederiksted Pier area but that has not yet come to fruition.
He said that officials need to work rapidly on getting the much-needed parking area, "otherwise get somebody with a bulldozer and re-do [Strand] street the way it was."
Cynthia Arnold, a project financial analyst with the PFA, confirmed at the meeting that about 30 spaces were to be made available near the north side of the gates to the Frederiksted Pier. She said that she would take back comments to the PFA.
Like Franklin, both Merwin and Abramson noted that there has to be a plan for growth in Frederiksted and that residents must be open to changes.
"There is lots of growth in Frederiksted," Abramson said, adding that parking will always be an issue. "We've been asking for it and we're getting it, and with growth comes changes."
The Frederiksted residents who were opposed to changes on Strand Street suggested instead that business owners and employees park in an area across from Buddhoe Park near the V.I. Legislature. The area has about 200 parking spaces as opposed to the 18 spaces on Strand Street.
Business owners, however, said they were concerned about security and safety in the area. Sgt. Ruby Urgent, special assistant to Chief Francis, said that prior to Thursday night's meeting she had researched incidents occurring in that parking area, noting that "we don't have many incidents in the parking lot."
Francis said he didn't want to make light of the safety issue and urged business owners to contact his office with safety recommendations that would meet their satisfaction.
"We want to be business friendly, and your concerns will be taken under advisement," Francis said, "but it's going to be a give and take."
Karole Ovesen-McGregor, deputy commissioner of transportation with Public Works, said that she will conduct research on V.I. government-owned property close to Strand Street that could be used for parking.
"We will come back to the community with a plan based on suggestions made tonight within a month or sooner," she said.
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