At a breakfast networking event in Wynwood this morning, Miami Parking Authority chief Art Noriega, addressing the ongoing parking changes that have rankled the neighborhood's businesses, called Wynwood a kind of "Wild Wild West" of parking and said his agency is working to refine its system.
"We knew that the process in Wynwood was going to evolve on a kind of month-to-month basis, because this area changes so much," he said. "The interest for me...to come here was to listen."
Over the past few months business owners like Mario Cruz, a local tech entrepreneur who joined Noriega in the discussion, have criticized the agency for what they say have been mostly unannounced changes, like increased hours on street meters, that have proven both inconvenient and extremely costly.
"We need better transit. We need better security. We need a plan," Cruz said.
As part of his remarks Noriega said that within the next few weeks the agency was phasing out the much-hated convenience fees on neighborhood meters, but otherwise he refrained from announcing concrete new changes. Instead, he said, the agency would continue tweaking with regulations like zones for monthly decal parking as it seeks to find the right balance between the needs of neighborhood employees and visitors.
"So we're lab rats?" event moderator Billy Corben pushed back at one point, the most contentious in the mostly friendly debate.
"Basically you are," Noriega answered.
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The discussion was held as part of Waffle Wednesdays, a weekly waffle and coffee networking event held in the airy NW 25th Avenue loft that serves as the offices of the tech startup LiveNinja. Before the conversation 30 or so casually-dressed Miami urbanites chatted and munched on stylized blueberry waffles and fresh fruit; afterwards, most seemed satisfied with the tone and content of a discussion whose focus ranged from the security issues facing Wynwood's female employees to the delay on Deco Bikes to the Mayor's previous jabs at the semiautonomous parking authority.
"I think it's very helpful," said LiveNinja CEO Will Weinraub, whose budgeting decisions have been thrown for a loop because of the parking changes. "So the people are able put a face to the Miami Parking Authority."