NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Wolfson Deck, one of the largest parking structures in downtown New Brunswick, could soon be converted into a small park and a new building, according to officials.
Wolfson is the oldest of the New Brunswick Parking Authority's nine parking garages, located on Neilsen Street between New and George Streets.
County officials announced plans for a small county "pocket park" earlier this year, which would be the first county park in New Brunswick.
According to Middlesex County Freeholder Charles Tomaro, the space “may be turned into some sort of tall building, with a park.”
The Parking Authority says they are not sure what will replace the deck, which can hold 525 vehicles and was originally slated to close last year before the NBPA reconsidered.
"I don't know exactly what's going to happen there right now," said Parking Authority Chairman Kevin McTernan at the July 25 NBPA board meeting.
"I know we want to go ahead and… as soon as a decision has been made about what the best use is, we'll be here to talk about it."
Mitch Karon, Executive Director of the NBPA believes that the demolition is imminent.
“The deck is close to 50 years old and is costing more and more money each year to maintain,” Karon told New Brunswick Today. “An engineering firm came in and decided that it is better off being demolished. The cost to keep it open is outweighing the value.”
But any future developments will depend on first identifying funding for what will replace the Wolfson Deck, something that has yet to be worked out.
“At this point we are identifying funding. Once funding is available, preliminary meetings will be held,” said Glenn Paterson, New Brunswick's Director of Planning, Community & Economic Development.
“These things are at the mercy of budget and funding for the city and county,” Patterson said.
Karon does not want to close the deck until funding is identified and the final stages of the proposal are underway.
“I’m trying to keep the deck open as long as possible. I don’t want the deck to be sitting unused. We will close it close to the time of the demolition.”
The NBPA is also currently working to demolish the even larger, unoccupied Ferren parking deck in the center of the downtown. Officials said they expect the demolition of Ferren to take a few months and finish by the end of this year.
Ferren has been gradually closed to the public over the past 18 months, with the stated reason that two new NBPA facilities nearby offer adequate replacements for the 1,200 spaces lost.
But the demolition of Wolfson may have more of an even bigger impact on the downtown parking than officials anticipate, because the spots it offers will not be replaced.
Some businesses and organizations located near the facility feel the other decks are a convenient alternative for their patrons.
Bob Brandes, one of the owners of Tumulty’s restaurant on George Street, is against the plan.
“It’s ridiculous to take parking and not replace it. Other parking decks aren’t as close as Wolfson and are always full,” Brandes told New Brunswick Today.
Parking in downtown is essential to customers coming to enjoy theatre, restaurants, and shopping, Brandes said.
“You can’t compete with places on the highway without enough parking.”
Amie Bajalieh, Associate Producer at Crossroads Theater Company, has seen downtown parking in New Brunswick change over the years.
"Patrons have been complaining for years that parking areas that were once available for free are now paid," adding that land that once offerred parking spaces had been replaced by new buildings on several occasions in the past.
"The demolition of the deck will impact business. Patrons don’t want to trek from further parking spaces," Bajalieh said.
But Karon does not believe that business will suffer since there are several other NBPA facilities within blocks of Wolfson.
“Other garages can handle the impact. There is adequate parking elsewhere with several other decks in the area,” Karon said.
“Churches in the area are having concerns, but I have assured them that there will still be parking for their members.”