Lauren Fister, who lives and works in South Norwalk, doesn't think much of LAZ, the company that enforces regulations for the Norwalk Parking Authority. "They're all about making a profit, not about the community," said Fister, an interior designer who lives on Water Street and sees clients nearby.
Her ire about parking has been exacerbated this month because the fees have gone up. As of March 1, on-street parking went up $.25 an hour, from $1 to $1.25. Fees in most of the facilities operated by the Parking Authority have gone up as well, an increase of a dollar for monthly permit holders and daily parkers. However, fees at the Maritime Garage have gone down.
Many people who work or own businesses in South Norwalk haven't noticed yet. "That's horrible," said Julie Alvaran, who has been a sales clerk for three months at Connie B's Boutique on North Main Street. The store has free parking in the back, but some customers don't know about it, she said. Parking meters are a deterrent, she said. "They don't want to pay," Alvaran said.
Lance Gray, a waiter at The Ginger Man, didn't know about the increases, either. He thought the increases would hurt lunch business, but he said the Washington Street parking meters actually help after 6 p.m. Parking on the street becomes free then, while the lots nearby charge around the clock.
Another businessman who was unaware of the change said the meters are a good thing. He has a convenience-type store, and people come in for short trips. If there were no meters, the same cars would sit outside all day, he said.
He said the meters are bad for restaurants, though. Leo Loukrezis, who works at Famous Pizza, said Norwalk residents should park for free because they already pay taxes. "Even if they rent, they're still paying," he said. One restaurateur said he couldn't give his opinion or his name because LAZ employees are customers, and he doesn't want to lose them. He says they are far too aggressive, though.
Fister agreed. "I see the amount of tickets that are given out," she said. "It's vicious. ... How do they know? As soon as the meter quits, the guy is there."
In response to the rate hike, Fister has started a petition. "We're a struggling economy, it's very delicate around here," she said. "It's hard to stay open, and the last thing we need is people not coming to town because parking is a hassle. They can easily go to Darien, they can easily go to Westport and not worry about parking."
She's offended that meter readers park right under the No Parking signs and says their presence is a distraction when she talks to clients. "Half the meeting is worrying about when the meter is running out," she said. "Other than what they should really be here for, which is focusing on interior design."
You can sign Fister's petition online or mail a signature to Lauren Fister, LLC, PO Box 614, Norwalk CT 06856-0614.
Do you avoid South Norwalk because of parking hassles? Comment below.