RIVER NORTH — Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to let people park at meters for free on Sundays comes at the expense of parkers in River North, who will have to feed their meters until midnight.
That was news to the neighborhood's alderman, Brendan Reilly, who said he found out about it from a news release.
"According to the press release, the administration has been negotiating with Chicago Parking Meters, LLC, for some time," Reilly said. "As recently as last week, I've been in meetings with members of the Cabinet involved in these negotiations, and at no moment did anyone mention this to me."
Reilly (42nd) said he's "disappointed that I wasn't included in those discussions" since the proposal "would essentially be financed by extending meter hours in the 42nd Ward."
The mayor unveiled a reworked deal with Chicago Parking Meters Monday that would fund free Sunday parking in neighborhoods outside downtown, offset by a three-hour increase in metered parking hours in River North.
Emanuel praised the arrangement for ensuring that Chicago residents "shouldn’t have to pay to go to church," Emanuel said.
"Whether you go to church or not, everyone deserves a break from feeding parking meters in our neighborhoods on Sunday. Beginning late this summer, Chicagoans will get that relief."
That relief will be funded by extending metered parking hours until midnight in River North, and until 10 p.m. in some other neighborhoods. Downtown neighborhoods, including River North, won't be included in the free Sunday parking deal.
Reilly said he doesn't think that's fair.
"I'd like to remind them that Downtown Chicago, the 42nd Ward, is home to dozens of religious institutions that provide ministry to thousands of Chicagoans," he said. "So where's their free parking?"
Reilly said he's started to receive "a trickle of emails" from concerned residents as word of the proposed deal spreads.
"Mostly they're, 'Were you aware of this?' and unfortunately my answer is 'no,' " Reilly said, calling the deal "a pretty serious policy change, and one I'm going to have to dig into and better understand."
The alderman isn't the only River North resident reacting negatively to the news. Jeff Stogsdill, who lives and operates a business in the area, said he doesn't think he and his neighbors deserve the short end of this deal.
"I don't think people here in River North are any different than the residents of Lincoln Park or the Gold Coast or Streeterville, or any other places around the city," Stogsdill said. "To single out River North as the only place in the city [where metered hours will extend to midnight], I think, is a mistake."
"It's already a bit of a logistic and cost nightmare to have friends come visit ... parking around here is such a nightmare," he said, adding that most of his staff takes public transit to work solely because parking spots are so hard to find.
Reilly said he's been promised a briefing from the mayor's office late Monday or early Tuesday, and said he hopes to have a better sense of how to fight for his community's interests after that.
"The 42nd Ward is the city's economic engine," he said. "This ward produces the majority of the city's revenue annually, and I think we need to be careful about the policy changes we make and the cost we add for folks to spend time in the central business district."
Reilly, who lives in River North, said he's as concerned about the possible impact on residents as he is about the business angle.
"There's a misperception that Downtown Chicago is only a place where very rich people live, and I can assure you there are a lot of young people who live downtown who are not rich, but love the Downtown experience, and very much wish to be able to continue to afford it," Reilly said. "That statement applies to me, too."