ALBANY Finding a spot to park should be a little easier for unionized state workers in the coming weeks.
New York’s Department of General Services has identified 1,000 parking spaces located in state lots around the capital that will be made available for members of the Public Employees Federation and the Civil Service Employees Association in February. The department initiated the new parking allotment after consulting with union members who don’t have parking spaces in state lots.
Heather Groll, the department’s spokeswoman, said the spots will be located throughout the 11 lots and three garages serving capital employees. The spots became available as various state offices were restructured and as employees were lost.
“Over the last few years, attrition and retirements combined with the real estate optimization have created vacancies and prompted a new look at the way we manage parking,” she said in an e-mail after Wednesday’s announcement.
Spots are available solely to members of the two unions who do not have a permit for a state lot and will be allotted based on seniority.
The so-called Temporary Parking Assistance Initiative comes in response to Albany’s recently instituted Residential Parking Permit System. The city began regulating 2,750 parking spots near Empire State Plaza, reserving them for residents and business owners with permits.
Drivers without a permit are allowed to park for only two hours between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays. Violators face parking fines of up to $50 with a $15 surcharge.
Residents have generally lauded the system, Albany City Clerk Nala Woodard said, and roughly 3,000 permits have already been sold. But the result has meant there are far fewer spots to serve the 13,000 state workers downtown.
Groll said the temporary allocations are a prelude to a comprehensive restructuring of the state’s downtown parking system. State officials anticipate the restructuring will be completed sometime this spring.
And it couldn’t come soon enough. Groll said her office recently hired a parking director, filling a vacancy that had existed for several years.
“We inherited an inefficient system that needs a drastic overhaul,” she said.
Union officials cheered the state’s move as one that will make life easier on workers. CSEA spokeswoman Therese Assalian acknowledged the diminished spaces downtown hasn’t been a common complaint among members, but parking has always been an issue around the capital.
“This initiative will bring relief to state workers without dedicated parking spaces in downtown Albany,” she said. “We are optimistic that the reconfiguration of the Office of General Services parking program will bring further relief.”
PEF spokeswoman Jane Briggs agreed the downtown parking situation is something that needs a long-term solution. Still, she said the state creating any added parking for workers will help until a more lasting fix can be ironed out.
“Parking is tough in Albany,” she said. “We’re looking at this as something that will help.”