“TO have to come home last night and tell 30-40 people of varying physical and mental health conditions that their home, their one place in this world where they feel safe is in doubt has left me incredibly emotional. I cannot even begin to tell you the impact of last night’s decision and only time will tell the damage to certain individuals. I feel very sorry for them and can only vow to do my best to limit the anxiety.”
That was the reaction of Lenny Gross, owner of Lenny’s Deli, on Wednesday morning after Glen Eira Council voted four to three on Tuesday night to progress plans to construct a ‘safe cycling corridor’ on Inkerman Road/Street, which will lead to the removal of local parking on one side of the road.
Gross, a key supporter of a number of not-for-profits both Jewish and non-Jewish, fears such a move may lead to the closure of his business, meaning he can no longer fund such groups.
Local shules Caulfield Hebrew Congregation (CHC), Chabad of Caulfield (770) and Hamayan were also alarmed, fearing the impact of loss of parking on members wishing to attend services and functions, particularly the elderly, parents with young children and people with a disability.
As Rabbi Yisroel Lebenholc of 770 asked The AJN, “How will these people in need be able to access the synagogue easily, with no easy parking nearby?”
CHC president David Mond lamented that council’s majority decision appeared to be based on “politics, personal bias and experimentation”, rather than the interests of “the overwhelming majority of ratepayers”.
Kosher Meals on Wheels has previously said it fears loss of parking will jeopardise its ability to provide food to the sick and elderly.
The council meeting itself saw Mayor Margaret Esakoff reduced to tears as she shared her personal views on “the most contentious issue I have faced” with “the largest ‘push-back’ from the community” in almost 17 years as a councillor.
Arguing Dandenong Road would be a better option for the corridor, Cr Esakoff said, “There is not a person living on Inkerman, off Inkerman or anywhere near Inkerman, any of the organisations or any of the 10 businesses being run whose amenity won’t be detrimentally affected, quite possibly to the point of becoming unsustainable.”
Noting among other things that many locals have large families who they host including on Shabbat, and that “there are people with a disability … people facing major challenges with their health and mobility”, Esakoff said, “There are many needs that must be met and there is no way they can be met if Inkerman Street/Road is the chosen option.”
While recognising the need to increase cyclists’ safety, Esakoff also noted the risks posed to those – including children, the elderly and those with a disability – “needing to either cross busy roads or … walk a distance from side and back streets, day and night, because they are unable to park near their homes”.
Recalling a friend killed crossing a local road with a child in his arms, she said, “Having parking on one side only heightens the risk for such tragedies to continue to happen.”
Increasing safety, she insisted, “should not be done as a trade-off for the safety of one group to the detriment of another group”.
Crs Anne Marie Cade and Joel Silver also voted against the proposals.
Noting the “quite real objections … which regrettably council report doesn’t work through”, Silver felt that ignoring the overwhelming local opposition “would exceed my democratic mandate, whatever the merits of the project”.
“Even if there is a ‘greater good’,” he said, “that would violate a bit of the trust that people have placed in me.”
The motion was supported by Crs Jim Magee and Jamie Hyams, who said they wanted to see if a proposed design for the corridor could resolve local concerns before making a final decision when the issue is voted on by council again next year.
“It’s important to note that the motion only advances the project to the design stage,” Hyams told The AJN, adding, “I have heard the genuine and legitimate concerns of the residents, businesses and community facilities … Ultimately, I will only support a design that I feel adequately caters for these concerns.”
Esakoff told council she believed proceeding to the design stage “is a waste of ratepayers’ money”.
Crs Mary Delahunty and Clare Davey also voted in favour of the Inkerman proposal. Dismissing the Dandenong Road option as “a fanciful idea … it will never be built”, Delahunty argued for “the greater good of being able to help people cycle safely … ease congestion on the roads and indeed being able to help the climate crisis that we are facing”.
Davey concurred, while her parting message to people concerned about where they would park was, “I would dare suggest to you, on your property.”