By Leslie Yager
Rita Azrelyant, Greenwich’s new director of parking services, said friends don’t tease her much for sharing a name with the subject of the ’67 Beatles song Lovely Rita (Meter Maid).
Azrelyant, whose name is pronounced as-reliant, started at Town Hall on July 14, replacing longtime parking director Allen Corry, said “Mostly I get called The Czar,” a moniker that may reflect her department’s association with parking tickets, and the stream of unhappy customers who approach the plexiglass window to pay a ticket, or even worse, to get a boot removed from their tire.
And yet, the scope of Azrelyant’s position is much broader than parking tickets.
With recent planning and zoning applications contemplating residential parking as a form compromise for neighbors concerned about parking shortages, Greenwich Free Press asked Azrelyant where she stands on expanding residential parking zones.
Her answer was simple. “I want to contain it,” she said.
Though she inherited several requests for residential parking, she insists that she will familiarize herself with neighborhoods and existing zones first.
She noted that when one street with residential parking abuts another, problems arise. “Next thing you know you have three streets next to each other with three different zones,” Azrelyant said, adding that each impacts the next.
“In terms of the residential parking I really want to contain it. I don’t want it to spread. I want try to understand why they requested that residential parking, and see if we can deal with the underlying problem rather than just give them residential parking.” – Rita Azrelyant, Town of Greenwich Director of Parking
“Any request for residential parking I’m not doing til I have a handle on parking. I haven’t said yes to anybody yet,” she said, adding that she inherited several requests that were submitted prior to her starting, including East Elm Street in central Greenwich, Loughlin Ave in Cos Cob and Henry Street (off Byram Rd) by Sacred Heart Parish.
“The other issue is that there are 10 zones. Maybe merge them together?” she said, adding that, “But then you have residents fighting over, ‘I want to park here’ and ‘I want to park here,’ so I just really want to contain it,” she said.
Watson’s Catering: Residental Parking on Angelus Drive Proposed by Owner of One Glenville Street
In the application of Watson’s Catering, which hopes to move to One Glenville Street, the building owner offered to initiate a request for residential parking for Angelus Drive neighbors who are concerned about Watson’s patrons parking on their street.
GRS House of Worship: Attorneys, Synagogue and Neighbors Discussing Residential Parking on Orchard St
In the Greenwich Reform Synagogue application for a house of worship in a residential neighborhood in Cos Cob, discussion has focused on parking for congregants. The applicant has promised that larger events will trigger use of shuttle buses running from parking lots at the Baptist Church and Central Middle School.
At several P&Z meetings, the creation of a residential parking zone for residents of Orchard Street, Valleywood Rd, Berg St and Meadow Dr, has been discussed, though it remains unclear how that would impact residents trying to park for the Pinetum or outside Rinaldi’s Deli.
Residential Parking Permit Process
The process for applying for a residential parking sticker is similar to applying for beach passes and stickers, though it is done entirely by mail.
Azrelyant said she looking into how the residential parking program is administered, with an eye to updating it, maybe with an online renewal.
Currently, residents whose streets have a residential parking restriction must prove their car is registered at their address, pay $10 per car, and apply for a sticker annually in December. The stickers run January to January.
If, for example a resident drives an employer’s car and brings it home at the end of the day, he won’t qualify for a sticker.
Each residential parking sticker comes with a guest pass, one per car. If it gets lost, it is not replaceable until the following January.
“It’s one thing to have a law – to have something in the code and the charter. It’s another thing to be able to enforce it.” – Rita Azrelyant on residential parking zones
“If we’re going to have something in place, we have to be able to enforce it,” Azrelyant said of residential parking zones. “Otherwise you get calls, ‘Hey, this car has been here several days.'”
She said that without staff to enforce residential parking zones, the parking enforcement staff wind up responding to phone calls rather than running regular routes.
Azrelyant said there are 7 staff doing parking enforcement on foot – a combination of three part-time and five full-time staff in cars, and two men who fix broken machines.
“They collect the money every day. That’s a big job,” Azrelyant said of collecting coins from the parking meters, which is done early in the morning.
“Those meters are great, but when they break, the only way we know is if somebody call in to repair,” she said. “It’s very hard to maintain those single space meters.”
“We don’t know when they fail until we get a call,” she said of the coin operated parking meters. “There’s no way to keep track, and there’s 4,000 meters.” – Rita Azrelyant, Greenwich Director of Parking
“There are a couple other things I want to unveil, and hopefully (the department will) become more technologically advanced,” she said. “We really want to be ahead of the curve. Greenwich should be ahead of the curve.”