MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Just weeks before the Miami Marlins open their first season inside Marlins Park, Little Havana residents are complaining that the city is unfairly imposing more restrictions on their parking around the Stadium.
They cite a rash of parking tickets issued just a few weeks ago to residents who live along Northwest 3rd Street just south of the Park.
But Art Noriega, the Director of Miami’s Parking Authority, tells CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that those complaints are exaggerated and he met with concerned Little Havana residents on Thursday night to address their concerns and tell them that his agency was doing all it could to ease the congestion.
“The intent is to make life easier for them, not harder,” said Noriega.
Along Northwest 3rd Street between 14th and 15th Avenues, residents told D’Oench they saw residents receiving a rash of tickets a few weeks ago.
“I feel bad for the people I saw being ticketed,” said resident Alfredo Padilla. “In five years I have never seen this problem before.”
Another resident, who did not want to be identified, “I saw this lady from the city going all the way down and giving out tickets. I feel so bad about this. We support the construction of the park. The dust and wind was so bad during construction. People should not have to pay to park along the street.”
“It’s terrible,” he said. “People live through construction and now they have to pay to park.”
Noriega told CBS4, “The only tickets that were given out was a few weeks ago. They were limited. About five tickets were given out for driveways being blocked.”
Noriega said the Parking Authority would monitor the situation.
The Parking Authority manages four parking garages and six lots near the Park.
Residents have complained that they losing on-street parking to Marlins employes and that they do not have access to parking lots.
The Parking Authority is exploring the possibility of issuing residential parking permits and is also looking into making changes on six streets, setting up either no parking zones or residential parking only.
Those streets are Northwest 3rd, 4th and 6th streets and Northwest 14th, 15th and 16th Avenues.
The Parking Authority plans to run some Public Service Announcements and send out e-mail messages to alert the public about parking around Marlins Park.
Parking will be a challenge, particularly when games draw big crows.
Marlins Park has 37,000 seats but there are just 5700 on-site parking spaces.
But Noriega says that is twice the amount of parking spaces that were available “on site” for football games at the Orange Bowl.
Officials hope many people will car pool, use trolleys and find alternative parking in areas around the Stadium, that include many private parking lots and even parking near the Metro Justice Building.
Apartment buildings and homeowners also will open up their lots for parking.
Monica Schneider says she and her husband have room for at least 30 cars on her lawn during game days at her home along Northwest 15th Avenue and 8th Street. “We’ll charge a competitive price, whatever the Marlins are charging for parking, say $15 to whatever is being charged.”
“It’s not hard to find parking,” she said. “People just need to look around.”
Despite some complaints already about parking near the Stadium, Marlins fans who D’Oench spoke with not concerned.
“I’m pretty sure I’ll find parking just like I did at the UM football games,” said Henry Padilla.
“I am not worried,” said Juan Echeverria. “I just want to go to games. I’ll take the bus. I’ll take the taxi.”
The Marlins parking was the topic of conversation inside Enriqueta’s Cuban restaurant on Northeast 29th Street in Miami.
“We’re such huge fans,” said Jeida Gonzalez. “We don’t mind parking problems. We will make it through.”
Fans received some good news Thursday as the Marlins announced the single-game parking passes would be made available to the public at the garages and surrounding lots.
That parking had been reserved for season ticket holders, Marlins players and staff and the media.
The Marlins host the New York Yankees On April 1 and 2 for two exhibition games and will open the season on April 4th when the St. Louis Cardinals come to town.
Those games will draw huge crowds and will be the first big tests of parking at and around the Stadium.