The City Council shelved a proposal last week that was submitted by mayor Andre Sayegh’s administration to charge usage fees for public fields.
Under the proposal, residents would have to pay permit fees ranging from $50 to $125 to use the fields while non-residents would pay double the sum residents are charged, according to the ordinance.
Council members opposed the measure last Tuesday.
“What are their tax dollars paying for if everything that we do we assess a fee,” said councilwoman Maritza Davila.
“It’s to keep the fields up and running. The fields cost millions of dollars to do. Other towns charge their residents,” replied public works director William “Billy” Rodriguez.
Councilman Alex Mendez favored charging non-residents, but opposed levying fees on residents.
“We already pay enough taxes and sewers, we deserve to use our parks openly,” said Mendez. He suggested eliminating the fees for residents and significantly increasing the fees on non-residents.
Councilman Shahin Khalique said two years ago the city was charging people to use fields. He mentioned the example of a cricket league that wanted to use the field at Buckley Park. Records show Paterson did indeed charge some people to use the fields without a legal basis.
“We did not charge them. We stopped charging,” said Rodriguez. He said this was occurring before he took over as director. He said he put a stop to it.
“Were people paying previously?” asked Khalique.
“I’m sure, yeah,” replied Rodriguez.
“I think they were wrongfully charged,” said Khalique.
The Division of Recreation was collecting the fees.
Khalique opposed charging fees for field usage.
Councilman Michael Jackson said residents should not be charged twice, once through taxation and second time through usage fees.
Councilman Al Abdelaziz said fees discourage people from abusing the system by booking all the fields.
Abdelaziz wanted to better define an “event.” He suggested an event should consist of four hours so that people cannot monopolize the use of certain fields. If somebody gets a permit and they put 7 to 9, they are paying just $250 (non-resident), he pointed out. He also wanted tax-exempt organizations to pay equal to or more than residents.
“We’re fixing them with taxpayer money. They are already paying for it,” said council president Flavio Rivera. “I don’t like the idea at all.”
Mendez suggested shelving the measure. Council members agreed and tabled the ordinance.
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