Downtown New Bedford Parking Spots Blocked for Weekend Festival
UPDATED 7/7/22: This story has been updated with further comments from a spokesperson for the mayor's office and from Ted Bolduc of Cojo's.
NEW BEDFORD — Prime downtown parking spots in New Bedford have already been blocked off as the city starts preparing ahead of this weekend's folk festival, and some business owners are voicing their discontent.
"Even though Purchase street parking is unavailable AGAIN, there is some parking available on the side streets and we will be open today until 6pm," read a Wednesday morning Facebook post from Cojo's Toy World at 763 Purchase Street.
Meanwhile a business next door, Purchase Street Records, wrote on its Facebook page encouraging customers to park on Union Street.
"They are setting up for a folk festival that’s 3 days away," the post noted.
Michael Lawrence, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell's office spokesman, confirmed that parking spots on the street have been turned into tow zones in preparation for the festival.
"Meters on Purchase Street have been bagged in order to give notice and time for people to move their cars ahead of festival setup," he wrote. "Stages for the festival are being set up this week."
But according to Cojo's co-owner Ted Bolduc, nothing had been set up by 3:15 p.m. Wednesday, despite the parking meters being blocked hours earlier.
"While we regret the temporary inconveniences associated with setup for the New Bedford Folk Festival, we know from 25 years of experience that the economic benefit to local businesses from the more than 3,000 expected visitors has a tremendous impact on sales at restaurants and shops," Lawrence said.
“That’s why the City supports the Folk Festival and other local events that spark economic activity which would not occur otherwise.”
Yet Roger Chouinard, owner of Purchase Street Records, said the lack of parking is currently affecting his business as well as others downtown.
"It is not busy for any of us," he said. "With no notice the town shuts down our street?"
Bolduc agreed, saying that foot traffic at his store is "way less than usual."
Chouinard also pointed out that festival organizers did not put up posters in local shops to let residents know about the event.
"I'm a record store," he said. "They didn't even put an event flyer here."
"We didn't even know about the event," agreed Bolduc.
Bolduc noted that the city has also recently doubled parking ticket fines and increased the cost of downtown parking meters.
"Parking tickets are now $20 instead of $10. And meters only give 12 minutes instead of 24 for a quarter," he said. "It definitely doesn't encourage people to shop or dine downtown."
"Two businesses on this street have recently closed," he added. "It's really a shame."
There will be no parking on Purchase Street until Monday, Chouinard said.
The New Bedford Folk Festival is put on by the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center and is celebrating its 25th year.
Artists will perform in several different venues and stages throughout the city on both Saturday and Sunday.
Festival organizers could not immediately be reached for comment.