The Common Council voted unanimously Monday night to ban all parking at all times on the east side of South Perry Street in front of the former Knox Junior High School from the intersection of 1st Avenue to the intersection of 4th Ave.
Monday night Jackson told the council the Greater Johnstown School District asked for the parking change in the wake of the district’s decision to move 5th and 6th grade students to the Knox building, creating the potential for an influx of traffic during school drop off and pick up times.
Jackson said he’s heard little public opposition to the proposal to eliminate the parking.
“I have not received any comments from any residents,” Jackson said. “I don’t know if any of you received any comments from ..”
“Yeah …” 4th Ward Councilman Max Spritzer replied.
“Yep, yep,” said 3rd Ward Councilwoman Amy Praught simultaneously.
Praught said she thinks the parking ban is a good idea, but said she had received no information about the time frame of when parking was banned on the street.
“Is it 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., is it seven days a week, all day, all night?” she said. “I’m wondering about when there are events at Knox, where are the vendors going to go? Is that something we should worry about or should we talk to the district about it? What about the handicap parking, are we at all violating the Americans with Disabilities Act?”
The resolution approved by the council Monday night states: “No Parking Any Time” on east side of the roadway from the intersection of First Avenue to the intersection of Fourth Avenue, and the amendment to Chapter 20 of the City of Johnstown Code of Ordinances shall take effect immediately upon its adoption.”
Jackson suggested the council pass the local law banning the parking now, and then revisit the issue later to suspend the ban for certain times, if necessary.
First Ward Alderman Bradley Hayner agreed.
“We can always change it later,” Hayner said.
The ordinance change leaves in place for now two handicap parking places within the new no-parking zone because an additional procedural step is needed to eliminate that type of parking.
The council voted unanimously to set May 17 at 6 p.m. as the public hearing date for the elimination of the handicap parking spaces.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions only “a limited amount of people” will be allowed at the public hearing. According to the resolution members of the public are encouraged to send their concerns to Mayor Vern Jackson via his email address at [email protected] or by U.S. mail at P.O. Box 160 Johnstown, New York 12095.
Spritzer said Johnstown Police Chief David Gilbo has reported to the council that the handicap spaces are not required, but Gilbo did not attend Monday’s meeting of the council and so was unavailable for follow up questions about the issue.
Spritzer said the two handicap spaces on the east side of South Perry Street are the only handicap spaces on the entire perimeter of the Knox complex, which includes its track and athletic fields, which is typically where the district conducts its high school graduations.
“I want to know why he says they aren’t required,” Spritzer said. “I feel like they are, especially a venue of that size that has no other handicap parking spaces. We need some sort of handicap parking space around Knox. We need to make it easily accessible. In my opinion there should be handicap spaces with the curb cuts to make it easier for those with mobility issues.”
Greater Johnstown School District Superintendent William Crankshaw said the school district worked with Jackson and Gilbo on its request regarding the parking. Crankshaw said the traffic problems are different in front of Knox for 5th and 6th grade students, many more of whom are likely to be picked up or dropped off at school by parents than was the case when the 7th and 8th grade students attended Junior High School at that location. He said Knox is also the location of the school district’s Pre-k classes now and for HFM BOCES special education students, creating a traffic risk that would be made worse by parking on both sides of South Perry Street effectively narrowing the street.
“This is to make things safer,” Crankshaw said.
Crankshaw said the school board has not considered how parking should work at major events at the Knox complex.
“I can’t really speak for that right now,” he said. “Right now, we’re just really concerned about student safety.”