Law students trucked by parking rules

Students at the FAMU College of Law in Orlando can no longer receive discounted rates at a nearby parking garage due to garage closures by the city and the delayed opening of the new law school.

The law school is located in downtown Orlando.

Previously, parking was available to students in the garage located at the corners of Central and Orange streets at a discounted rate of $1.50 per day.

To compensate for the loss of parking, the city has made discount rates available at another garage.

“Students can park at Church Street, they just have to walk a couple of extra blocks,” said James Douglas, dean of the law school.

Due to construction of new housing, the city of Orlando closed down its garage on Pine Street south of the Lynx Transit Authority Building on July 31, 2005, according to the director of the City of Orlando Parking Division Offices, Sam Vennero.

The city issues monthly parking permits to the public, and when they closed down the Pine Street garage, they had to make more space available to honor their parking contracts, Vennero said.

“Our understanding was that the new school would open in August. This (the garage closure) wouldn’t interfere with students,” Vennero said. “We talked to the law school well in advance,” Vennero added.

According to Student Bar Association President Jeff Lawson, students were surprised by the parking situation and began to send him e-mails on Aug. 30 regarding the matter.

Lawson said when he asked the law school what notification they received, he was given a memo dated Sept. 9.

Douglas said he couldn’t say for sure when the city notified the school.

“Universities change parking lots. It’s something that happens. Students don’t know about that until they come back for the fall and there is nothing unusual about that,” Douglas said.

Students can still use the lot at Central and Orange, but during the day they must pay the regular price of $1 per hour.

After 5 p.m., students can park in the garage at Central and Orange for the $1.50 rate. This allows evening students and those day students who are able to move their vehicles to park closer to the campus for the lower rate.

Vennero said that whatever parking meters are available in the area are time restricted and probably would not be a viable alternative to students needing to park for more than a couple of hours.

Lawson said many students work in professional jobs that require them to wear suits.

“The problem is, you’re walking two blocks in the heat,” Lawson said, referring to the longer walk from the Church Street location.

Lawson said another issue was the security of students at night.

“If you arrive at the school at 3 o’clock, you may not get out until seven, eight or nine o’clock, and then you have to walk at night in downtown Orlando,” Lawson said.

A portion of this walk takes students through an underpass that goes beneath Interstate 4.

Director of College of Law Security, Bruce T. Henson Sr., said extra security was hired to escort students and faculty members upon request.

“These are armed, off-duty police officers,” Henson said.

Officers also escort groups of students down to the garage every 30 minutes.

“Students usually get out of their classes about the same time, so it works out,” Lawson said of the timed escorts.

Henson said that officers are there until the library closes at 11 p.m.

Lawson said the school acted quickly to ensure the safety of its students.

“They definitely worked in a reasonable amount of time to address the security issue,” he said.

Douglas said the city of Orlando has supported the law school and continues to.

“The city was able to provide parking for us. The city didn’t have to do it, but they did.”

Douglas said the school will have its own lot withing the year.

Contact Mackenzie Turberville