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Waiving parking fees and fines during crisis could prove costly for city 

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PHOTO BY GINO FANELLI

The suspension of parking fees and most fines in Rochester as part of the city’s effort to slow the spread of coronavirus could cost the city upward of $900,000 a month, a CITY analysis of the city’s budget suggests.

The city waived fees at city-operated parking garages and lots and halted parking meter enforcement after Mayor Lovely Warren declared a state of emergency on March 16. Warren later promulgated the policy on April 6 in an executive order that has since been extended.

The order cites the suspension of parking fees, along with other measures, as necessary “to adequately protect life and property and to bring the emergency situation under control.”

“While residents are working from home, we don’t want to have to pay for a monthly permit they are not using,” city spokesperson Justin Roj said in March. “In addition, we are suspending meter collection to enhance social distancing and limit the spread of COVID-19.”

The city’s budget projected that city-operated parking garages, lots, and meters would generate about $8.1 million in revenue annually, or roughly $680,000 a month. Roj acknowledged on Monday that the city is losing about $500,000 a month on garage fees alone.

However, the budget also anticipated pulling in another $2.9 million annually, or $240,000 a month, in parking fines, many of which would be assessed to motorists who overstayed their time on parking meters that are no longer being watched.

Alternate side parking regulations are still being enforced, although the budget offers no way to tell how much revenue is generated by fines for violators.  Roj said the measures are being kept in place in order to “ensure proper access for first responders.”

State law gives local executives, such as mayors, the authority to enact curfews, close public spaces, designate emergency centers, and suspend local laws, among other things, during a state of emergency.

The fees for parking meters and garages will remain suspended so long as the state of emergency is active.

Recently, Governor Andrew Cuomo extended his New York on PAUSE executive order through May 15, making it unlikely that the city would roll back its emergency order before then.

By that time, the budget book suggests, the city could have lost $1.8 million in parking fees and fines.

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at gfanelli@rochester-citynews.com.
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