LETTER: On Greenwich Ave, short-term parking turnover is the blood of small retailers.
Submitted by John Cooper, Greenwich
My 96 year old stepfather lives with my wife and I and eats certain foods regularly. Over the past two weeks, I’ve been making trips to our local treasure, St. Moritz Bakery (opened 1939, on the avenue since 1960) in search of its beloved Florentine cookies.
For the second time in this period they didn’t have one, so I spoke up. “Any reason you’re not baking Florentine biscuits right now?” “Not enough business,” she replied.
As sad as it was to hear that, it made sense because it took me one flyover and two trips around the block to get a parking spot.
It wasn’t the owner, just a teller who knew intimately how slow business had become. When you drive down the avenue on a day as glorious as today and see hundreds of diners seated in what were once parking spaces, it hits you.
That’s why retailers are suffering, there are fewer spaces all along the avenue for shoppers to park.
When a diner takes over a space, that’s it for the full two hours, a leisurely lunch and a drink in the sun with no qualms about moving. Shoppers, trying to do errands like picking up a prescription, buying cookies, dropping off dry cleaning, etc., are likely in a space of no more than twenty minutes.
Turnover from short-term parking is driving small businesses. Retailers live off small purchases, unless it’s Betteridge, but high-end restaurants on the Avenue can drop a check for $200 for a table of 4. Weirdly, as all tables are taken outside , the tables inside are empty… until when?
A solution could be as simple as, for each block of parking spaces, 40% should be limited to 30 minutes, the rest to the full two hours.
A group coming to the avenue could be dropped off at their place and the driver could head to Mason or Benedict or another parking lot off the avenue, walk a few blocks and join their party.
Short-term spots would be constantly renewed, allowing shoppers to frequent stores suffering from a lack of activity. It might work until all those curbside dining gets pushed back to where it belongs, indoors. Last year that might have made sense, but the overblown expansion of street food this year doesn’t.
The pandemic is a fact of life going forward and the Avenue needs these spots put back to their intended use. I would hate to lose a local treasure like St. Moritz and if you don’t see it that way try to have Sarah Bernhardt like theirs anywhere else on earth…