After noticing parking changes to the St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church lot, arguably downtown Lambertville’s largest space, I posted some photos to the Lambertville NJ Community page on Facebook, hoping to discover when parking gates were installed. Since the photos set off a firestorm of commentary, I decided to contact the church to hear their side of the story.
The church was represented by Tim Rudderow, a parishioner who helped run the church’s Capital Campaign, which oversaw improvements there, including recent renovations to the physical structure of the building and property.
Why did the church feel it necessary to install the vehicle barrier gates?
Rudderow: “It was all part of the development for access of the church, which was not just the gates. It was improvements to the sides, an improved ramp and plaza, and an overall better electrical service. The main reason the gates went up is quite simple: little old ladies could not find parking spaces during mass. For the most part it’s a very simple, pragmatic matter for parishioners.”
How did the parish decide on these changes?
Rudderow: “Father Robert (Kolakowski) got a lot of feedback from parishioners.”
How bad were the parking problems in the church’s lot?
Rudderow: “Well, first of all, there have always been signs up. We never towed any cars, but it was a chronic problem that never seemed to have a solution. We were fine with other groups like AA, who used the parking lot and the building. We gave the food pantry access. When it was necessary, it was made available.
“But then there’s the liability. What happens if someone trips and falls? People have fallen on the sidewalk in front of the church, and it’s been sued. It’s like allowing someone to park in your driveway.
“The city has metered parking until 9 p.m. at night, and that’s a big reason why people are parking there on Saturday nights and Sundays. A guy pulls up with two bicycles on Sunday morning and goes for a ride on the canal. That’s simply something that had to be dealt with.”
With such a large downtown footprint, does the church have a responsibility to inform the general community of the change?
Rudderow: “I don’t really think so. We have a responsibility to our parishioners to control the flow of traffic; they’re the ones that pay for it. People in the community are not shoveling the snow, they didn’t shovel after the recent snowstorm. The church is contributing to the overall aesthetic look of downtown.”
Beside church events and other organizations who use the building, will there be any parking exceptions?
Rudderow: “As a community service, we provide parking during the Shad Festival for $10 and also handicapped parking — and the church’s lot was open for cars in the aftermath of the snow storm.”
Anything to add?
Rudderow: “The other issue is if the [Lambertville] Music Hall opens across the way, that’s going to be an issue, too. People are going to come into dinner. So we had to deal with it. Look, the church is a tourist draw. People come strolling through the building all day long. It’s really beautiful and a great thing to have in the middle of Lambertville. Father Robert believes that beauty evangelizes. Has to do with the goal of our parish.”