I am writing to you with an update on our parking deck initiative … and I am doing so with a great deal of excitement.
Simply stated, we are very close to making a downtown parking deck a reality. After months – in fact, years – of hard work and after 3,236 Ridgewood residents (65%) voted in support of a parking deck in last November’s election, we are in the final stages of the process … fine tuning the design, working through the finances and getting ready to put shovel in the ground.
In January, the Council voted on an ordinance to finance the parking deck on our own. Specifically, we voted 3-2 in favor of bonding up to $12.3 million to pay for the deck. Unfortunately, for bonding purposes, a simple majority of the Council is not enough.
So, in February, we voted on a different ordinance – one that would allow the Village to partner with the Bergen County Improvement Authority (BCIA), which would borrow the necessary funding and finance the deck. Again, the vote was 3-2 in favor, but since the Village would not assume any debt under this arrangement, the simple majority was enough to pass the ordinance.
In my mind, either scenario is good for Ridgewood. Both would result in a much-needed parking deck at comparable costs.
Some, however, have suggested that our vote regarding the BCIA was taken to “circumvent” the bonding process. That is simply not true. We began exploring a partnership with the BCIA in May 2013 – long before our current discussion – because there are many advantages to doing so. Better interest rates. Better amortization (payment schedule). And such a partnership would allow the Village to finance and build a parking deck without adding to our overall debt burden. Further, I am a big believer in partnerships – public/public or public/private – because they can lead to enhanced efficiencies, enhanced effectiveness and saved dollars.
Regardless, there is now a petition drive underway to prevent our partnership with the BCIA – a drive that has been fueled, in part, by misinformation and outright lies. That is unfortunate. The people of Ridgewood deserve better.
That said, in the spirit of getting this project done –once and for all – and in the spirit of doing it together as a community, I am willing to re-introduce the January bond ordinance at our March 2 Council meeting. Although I still believe that a partnership with the BCIA would be a good thing for Ridgewood, I want to give my Council colleagues another chance to make this happen.
But let’s be clear – if the full Council is still not willing to support the bond ordinance – notwithstanding all of the statements recently made by Council members – we should continue to move forward with the BCIA.
Again, I sincerely believe that either approach – going it alone or in partnership with Bergen County – would be good for Ridgewood. Either way, we must seize this unique moment. Either way, we must keep moving forward.
Paul Aronsohn, Mayor
Village of Ridgewood