RIDGEWOOD, N.J.– The Ridgewood Council unanimously approved bonding $11.5 million Wednesday night for a multi-level downtown parking garage.
The 5-0 decision was the first of two votes following public hearings -- this one lasting about an hour and a half. The second was to be on whether to allow high-density housing downtown.
"What we're witnessing and experiencing is an important moment in this community," Mayor Paul Aronsohn said. "It's history."
"This garage will do good things," Councilman Albert Pucciarelli added. "Otherwise, I wouldn't be voting for it."
The venue was changed from Village Hall to Ridgewood High School's Campus Center (627 E. Ridgewood Avenue) to accommodate the expected turnout.
About 100 people showed up -- several of whom left after the parking garage vote.
Most citizens spoke in favor of the facility, although some said they believe the four-story, five-level structure that's planned is too big.
"We definitely need more than one garage," said Lorraine Reynolds, who led a petition drive against a proposal to have the Bergen County Improvement Authority build the facility and lease it back to the village. "I think more than three levels in that location is going to be too overpowering."
Resident Ellen McNamara told Daily Voice she's for a garage that's "smaller, fitting on the lot, and a level shorter."
Officials had pursued giving the BCIA control over the 43-foot, 325-car facility after a January vote on a $12.3 million bond ordinance failed. Aronsohn, in turn, came up with a new plan that reduced the amount by $800,000.
Councilman Michael Sedon and Councilwoman Susan Knudsen, who opposed the initial measure, this time approved having the village borrow money for the project.
All agree that downtown parking problems have challenged business success, pedestrian safety and the area's overall quality of life.
Village officials have tried nightly valet parking, extended meter times and the ParkMobile app for smartphones, with little success.
The mayor said he hopes the new garage will make Ridgewood more welcoming to commuters but said "we must take care of residents first and foremost."
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