FOX 32 and BGA investigate parking `wars` in Edison Park - New York News

FOX 32 and BGA investigate parking `wars` in Edison Park

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

For years we've heard complaints about skyrocketing prices at Chicago parking meters, especially downtown.

Now, a new parking battle is taking shape in the neighborhoods.

Residents and businesses in Chicago's Northwest side Edison Park say they're under siege by enforcement workers writing parking tickets day and night.

They're trying to fight back, but because the city privatized the meters, there's not much they can do about it.

Fox 32, along with the Better Government Association investigate the story.

Quaint little Edison park, with its two block commercial district of bars, restaurants and retail shops seems an unlikely battlefront.

Yet, lately everyone here has a war story.

"I just stopped in the store to get a quick soda. Came out and I had a ticket on my car," Edison Park resident Gary Tittle said.

This is what they're talking about, employees of LAZ Parking patrolling the streets and sidewalks both during the day and at night.

Nine o'clock Tuesday night FOX 32 saw three parking enforcement workers writing tickets in this tiny area.

"They are like sharks. They're waiting to see who they cut, constantly," business owner Maria Concannon said.

Maria Concannon has owned the Don Juan Mexican restaurant here for 30 years.

She says the aggressive enforcement is hurting business.

"This is a neighborhood. This is a family area. I understand downtown they can't be holding the places forever. But here?" Concannon questioned.

"It's gonna effect the small business owners. These aren't corporations. These are mom and pop businesses," Edison Park Chamber of Commerce head, Melissa Panizzi, said.

Panizzi runs the Edison Park Chamber of Commerce

She says for the past two weeks LAZ parking employees have been blanketing the tiny commercial district with a blizzard of tickets from 8:30 a.m. till ten o'clock at night.

"They sit in there and they watch. And the minute they see someone get out of their car, if they don't go right to that meter box, they get out and ticket them," Panizzi said.

It's gotten so bad that the chamber put information on its Facebook page, advising people where to go for free parking. It has also urged businesses to put up signs warning customers about the crackdown.

The owners of Nonno Pino Restaurant are even offering diners seven dollars off their tab to help pay for the metered parking.

"We're just trying to make sure our customers are taken care of," Nonno Pino Restaurant owner Mike Sheahan said.

41st Ward Alderman Mary O'Connor told FOX 32 that she's heard the complaints, but there's nothing the city or police can do because the enforcement workers are employed by a private company.

She's so frustrated she sent FOX 32 a picture she took herself of a LAZ vehicle parked in front of an Edison Park fire hydrant.

"This is a cautionary tale about the problem of privatization," Andy Shaw of the Better Government Association said.

Shaw says the $1.1 billion sale of Chicago's parking meters to a private company under Mayor Daley may have helped plug a hole in the city's budget, but now we're living with the consequences.

"You turn over control of the asset to a private business, which is profit-oriented, so they don't care whether residents and businesses are upset," Shaw said.

A spokesman for Chicago Parking Meters, which employs LAZ for its enforcement, says, "Compliance teams are dispatched throughout the city and to specific neighborhoods. As always, compliance officers only issue tickets to drivers who have failed to pay for metered parking and are in direct violation of the law."

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