Two of three members of the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday said they supported charging a regular daily rate for six disabled parking spaces at the New Canaan Train Station that in the past have been free.
Though it’s important to locate the designated spaces in close proximity to the station platform for reasons of access, and also to ensure that disabled people are accommodated in terms of physically making payment—for example, by mailing a check if using a pay machine is not possible—the question of whether or not those individuals have the ability to pay is separate, according to Selectman Nick Williams.
“I am not sure why you would treat disabled individuals differently because of their disability apart from the mobility to get to be able to pay which I totally agree to,” Williams said during a regular selectmen meeting, held at Town Hall.
Noting that he’s chairman of the Board of Directors of Art Beyond Sight, a nonprofit organization serving the visually impaired, Williams said he didn’t see why a disability “in and of itself should make a difference with respect to something like paying fees.”
“I think we should strive in life to treat everybody equally and because you are disabled it does not mean you lack the ability to pay as others do,” he said. “There are disabled people who are far more successful than I am and so because we have been doing in the past doesn’t mean we shouldn’t change in the future. To me, it’s not the money. It is the signaling that somehow disabled people are not successful enough to be able to pay for parking.”
The discussion arose as the selectmen took up a recommendation from the Parking Commission to start charging $6 per day for six disabled spaces facing the train platform downtown.
Though the selectmen last month voted unanimously to up the daily rate for 142 spaces at the train station from $5 to $6, including the six handicapped spaces, First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said the fee for those specific spaces would not be implemented until the Parking Commission researched the matter. Ultimately, the Commission voted 4-1 to start charging for the spaces after finding that among five “peer towns”—Darien, Westport, Fairfield, Greenwich and Stamford—only Darien charges nothing for its disabled spaces at railroad lots.
Selectman Kit Devereaux said she didn’t see why New Canaan would make a change to its longstanding policy of leaving the disabled spaces at the train station free.
“We have been doing this as standard procedure forever so to make a move to start doing this says nasty things about us,” she said.
She added, “To me it is a wealthy town reaching out in ways it doesn’t need to do that leave well enough alone. I mean how much money do you think we will get?”
Later, she added, “I think it’s very mean spirited.”
Devereaux made a motion to rescind the selectmen’s February vote so that the six disabled spaces would not be charged the $6 daily fee with others in the railroad lot.
“I will make a motion that will not be seconded, to rescind,” she said.
Williams said he respected Devereaux’s motion but that he would not second it.
Moynihan also did not second it.
“So as predicted there is no second so the motion dies,” Devereaux said.
During deliberations, Moynihan said the town had received a comment from a disabled man who said he’s accommodated in the New York City subways not in terms of paying less money than others but in the physical method of payment.
“So that is one example of where a handicapped person who commutes to New York does not have a problem paying, it’s just a matter of accommodating,” Moynihan said.
No other approvals are needed to start charging for the disabled spaces at the train station. It wasn’t immediately clear how soon the change will take hold.