The City of Miami Parking Authority has been actively ticketing vehicles parked on NW Second Ave. in the heart of Wynwood, according to employees at a handful of local art galleries.
Parking along Wynwood's busy main drag was formerly free of charge. But in recent weeks, the city has erected "Pay To Park" signage and, gallerists say, has been going on ticketing sprees during the neighborhood's busiest times.
No automated parking meters have yet been installed on NW Second Ave., which local business owners feel is unfair and counterproductive to the economic development of the fledgling art district.
For Robert Fontaine, the director of the eponymous art gallery, it all started a few weeks back.
"I watched it happen. I saw them give tickets out," Fontaine said.
He even got one himself, for $18.
"It's just crazy," Fontaine said. "The city shouldn't be charging for parking when the area is still in transition."
While other parts of Wynwood have been subject to the rules associated with parking meters for some time, NW Second Ave. has earned a reputation as a sort of free parking safe-zone.
"Yes, we do need regulation on parking, but it's a very artsy neighborhood and we should have the freedom to park", said Jessica Bernal, manager of mosaic design firm Fantini Mosaici, located at 2310 NW Second Ave.
Ariadna Rivero, the assistant director for Alberto Linero gallery (2294 NW 2nd Ave) said that the tickets took her by surprise when an artist from Fort Lauderdale was cited for parking on the street in front of the building, while dropping off some art pieces.
"The people come here to see the art and they have to pay? Of course, it's going to hurt the galleries," Rivero said at her desk in a stark white studio.
While parking meters do not exist on NW Second Ave., there are signs in some locations that inform potential parkers to "pay by phone" or to download a mobile app. Some of these are close to 10 feet off the ground and are posted on telephone poles, while others look more official.
Some think that the parking authority did a poor job explaining that people needed to start paying for parking since it had always been free on Second Ave.
"They need to make it very apparent that you need to pay to park," Fontaine said. "It can't be a surprise to the people that work there."
Looking at the bigger picture, some see the parking confusion as the latest in broken promises from the City of Miami.
"The city hasn't done much for Wynwood," Fontaine said. He acknowledged that the advent of metered parking was inevitable in the rapidly growing neighborhood, but said updated sidewalks, loading zones for emergency services, handicap parking and commercial loading zones should be created before new parking rules come into effect. "The city should be helping people like myself who have taken a risk to come here. If you're going to be making money on the people in an area, then why don't you at least fix the sidewalks?"
While multiple reports of parking citations being placed on vehicles has been alleged by local business owners, there does not seem to be an even enforcement along the street.
For example, Andrea Pasin, the owner of Gum Galleria (2219 NW Second Ave.) says that he has not seen any ticketing near his storefront so far, while cars parked in front of Fontaine's gallery just one block north have received tickets.
Still, Pasin said he would like to see some of the money collected from parking meters to come back directly to the Wynwood community in the way of investment. "Where is the money going? We feel that the city has been negligent with Wynwood," Pasin said.
"It's a little too early [to crack down on parking]," he continued. "We're not South Beach."
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The Miami Parking Authority did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.
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