ITHACA, NY – A little over a year ago, Ithaca Farmers Market manager Aaron Munzer celebrated the completion of the Cayuga Waterfront Trail, but he also acknowledged the sacrifice the Farmer’s Market had to make — namely, giving up 50 parking spaces.
As anyone who has lived in Ithaca for any length of time knows, parking is at a premium. At the time, Munzer wrote that he hoped it would encourage people to leave their cars at home and walk or bike to the Farmer’s Market along the five-and-a-half mile trail.
That’s still the hope, but now another recent change has compounded the Farmers Markets parking woes.
The city has recently restricted parking along the Third Street Extension near the Farmers Market, which has long been used as auxiliary parking for the market, according to a letter written by Munzer, co-manager Becca Rimmel and the heads of the Farmers Market’s Board of Directors to the city’s Board of Public Works.
The letter indicates that between the Waterfront Trail and this recent change on Third Street, the Farmers Market have lost approximately 100 of their 500 parking spaces. This is having a major impact on vendor sales, they say.
To put the situation in perspective, the letter notes that on a busy Saturday, Farmers Market parking attendants can park up to 1,641 vehicles in a three hour span from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Causes and solutions
According to the letter, the change was made because of a request from a lawyer for Bob Andree, who heads up operations for Mirabito in Ithaca, which merged with Andree Petroleum five years ago. The decision was ultimately made based on the fact that vehicles parked there obstructed the public right-of-way.
As city Parking Director Frank Nagy explains it, the original complaint stemmed from the company not being able to get fuel trucks down the road while there were cars parked there. Since that also meant that fire trucks would not be able to fit, the fire chief and Department of Public Works made the change.
People continued to park there, with several being ticketed, so the city went a step further and cut the grass around the area to make sure the “No Parking” signs were visible.
While they don’t object to the decision itself, the Farmers Market head’s feel it was bad form form the city to make the change with only three days advance notice — and during the middle of a busy season for the market.
In their letter, the Farmers Market leaders say they are hesitant to start charging for parking, as they feel it would ultimately cause their vendors to lose more business to the major Route 13 food centers like Wegmans. Nagy suggested something of a middle ground: paid parking at the site, with the revenue generated used to fund a free shuttle from another off-site parking lot.
While they are reaching out to TCAT and looking for other nearby auxiliary parking options, the Farmers Market says that these solutions are marginal at best.
Instead, they are proposing the creation of a small gravel pull-off on the edge of the Third Street Extension, providing for 600 feet of perpendicular parking space, which the Farmers Market would have exclusive access to on Saturdays. They are proposing that the cost be split between the Farmers Market, the city and Cornell. The Farmers Market would also take on liability risks and maintenance costs for the space.
Nagy estimated that the project would cost $20,000 to $25,000.
The issue is set to be discussed during the Aug. 22 meeting of the Board of Public Works, at 4:45 in the Council Chambers at City Hall.