By LINDA MOSS
After receiving complaints about The Crosby gastropub, claims of illegal parking and a street being blocked, the township is looking into what control it has over valet parking for local restaurants.
At last week’s Township Council meeting two residents claimed that the restaurant-bar is valet parking vehicles on public roads, such as Forest Street; that traffic is backing up and being blocked on narrow Glenridge Avenue; that Crosby patrons are illegally parking on both Glenridge Avenue and Forest Street and not getting ticketed; and that patrons of the establishment are congregating on the sidewalk and in the street.
In response, Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson asked Township Attorney Ira Karasick to look into the matter to determine what power the municipality has to regulate valet parking to address any of the issues that were raised.
At the meeting Cheryl Iton, who lives on Forest Street, told the council that since The Crosby opened with its valet parking there have been myriad problems in her neighborhood.
Iton and Sharon Cockey, who grew up on Forest Street and whose 98-year-old father still resides there, both said that The Crosby’s service, Valet King, is parking vehicles on Forest Street.
In addition, both women said that it is near impossible for residents to find parking on Forest Street now because every weekend it is packed with vehicles violating two-hours-only parking rules, with some cars staying on the street overnight. And vehicles are also blocking driveways by ignoring signs that prohibit parking within two feet of driveways, according to Iton and Cockey.
“The influx of parking is really ridiculous,” Iton said. “And the block is being used for valet parking, which seems sort of interesting to me that that would be allowed.”
The Crosby, the adjacent Fin Raw Bar & Kitchen and Saluté are all on Glenridge Avenue and are all owned by the same company, which is led by restaurateur Gerry Cerrigone. In 2015 Cerrigone received site-plan approval from the Township Planning Board to expand Fin into an adjacent building, the former Montclair Feed & Pet Supply. Cerrigone opened The Crosby in that site this spring.
As a condition of the site-plan approval, Cerrigone and his company had to hire a valet parking company and “maintain at least 76 spaces for its valet company’s use,” according to the planning board resolution. He has arranged the use of two private parking lots near his restaurants.
Cerrigone didn’t respond to several requests for comment. But in Montclair, a restaurant mecca with more than 120 eateries and limited parking, valet parking is an amenity offered not only on Glenridge Avenue but on Church Street.
“It seems that Forest Street again has become the stepchild that everyone’s kicking, to literally the curb, and no one seems to care about it because it’s for the convenience — it seems like, I hate to say it — for the convenience of some publicly affluent people,” Cockey said last week.
“I say that only because of the cars that are there, coming in and out [of The Crosby], are very, very expensive,” she said. “You see a lot of Ferraris, and Porsches and Maseratis, so they are definitely some people who have the appearance of money, that they’re driving these cars … I grew up on that street, and the people who live on this street are not driving Ferraris and are not driving Maseratis … It is not unusual to see those cars on Forest Street parked where that bar is and the end of Forest Street and Glenridge Avenue.”
It’s a safety issue because drivers trying to turn from Forest Street onto Glenridge Avenue often have their view blocked by large SUVs parked by The Crosby, according to Cockey. Iton added that she’s seen many near-accidents at that corner.
Deputy Mayor Robin Schlager said she agreed with the concerns raised by Iton and Cockey, having seen the problem firsthand about two months ago when she was walking down Glenridge Avenue one night. She saw two large SUVs parked by The Crosby blocking the corner at Forest Street and called the police.
The officers came and ticketed the SUVs. Schlager said that the such illegal parking often happens at the location and the Montclair police do their best to get over there to ticket vehicles.
Schlager pointed out that a municipal parking deck is going to be built at what is now a surface public parking lot across the street from The Crosby, which might alleviate some of the traffic issues. But the two neighbors who were voicing their complaints didn’t think the deck would solve any problems, that people would still look to park for free, illegally, on Forest Street.
Fourth Ward Councilwoman Renée Baskerville said that valet parking in town had come up at a recent meeting of the Traffic and Parking Advisory Committee, which Lt. Stephanie Egnezzo, the Montclair Police Department Traffic Bureau Commander, attends. Baskerville said TPAC might be “a good place to deal with some of these other concerns.”
The mayor then said that Karasick needs to look at local ordinances to see what control the township has over valet parking.
“I agree with you,” Karasick said. “It’s not just a matter of parking the cars in the street. In order to allow valet parking, they’re [The Crosby] actually interfering with traffic and the flow on the streets … It’s really a privilege that we’re giving them to valet park. Consequently if they’re putting cars on residential neighborhood, I think we’ll look into what we can do about that.”