December 30, 2020 was the last stop for Juan Tirado, known to some as “The Mayor of Scarborough Station”. That was his final day running the train station valet parking lot. Covid and the switch to working from home resulted in MetroNorth’s ridership dropping some 80% per cent compared to the previous year. The once-bustling Scarborough lot, previously the daytime home to some 350 commuter cars, is now all but vacant. “What I’ve missed most all these months is the people,” Tirado confides.
The cars – usually dropped off in the front of the lot with motors still running – were skillfully organized by Tirado, based on commuters’ return schedule. The gains from the only municipal valet lot available in Westchester were significant: 100% increase in daily capacity; wide-spread permit availability to residents; elimination of the search for a parking spot; and an overall reduction of commuting stress, all without an extra charge to permit holders. But, for Briarcliff residents, Tirado’s impact over the last 13 years was much larger. His ability to give every resident personalized service was extraordinary, whether remembering their return schedules, asking about family (and caring about the answer), commenting on a good hair day, lending an umbrella or just a warm smile. Juan set the tone for the morning commute, offering a constant friendly face, and a strong sense of community.
It’s with a breaking heart that I have to say goodbye to all of you wonderful people in Briarcliff. You all have been so great to me and have truly treated me like family. All of your friendships have truly blessed my life. I hope to return when ridership returns and resume serving you. Please stay healthy always.” Juan Tirado
Tirado is employed through ProPark, which will allow him to serve the private lot in the Scarsdale station, for the foreseeable future. As for the Scarborough station, “The future is yet to be defined,” says Philip Zegarelli, Village Manager of Briarcliff Manor. Zegarelli does promise that when ridership returns to levels necessitating valet service, Briarcliff has an agreement with ProPark that allows “first-dibs on Juan’s return”. The station permits purchased by residents not only go to subsidizing the ProPark agreement, but also to the general maintenance of the station. As of December, the 2021 permits purchased were not even a quarter of the 2020 volume. Pivoting to the community needs in 2021, the village is offering reduced rates and monthly passes for the first time.
Meanwhile, the residents came together to ensure at least one of the station traditions would not be cancelled – Juan’s holiday gift. A GoFundMe check was presented to him in December.