By Alex Petroski
Despite concerns raised by members of the community, a valet parking system backed by restaurant and other business owners as well as elected officials in Port Jefferson Village is slated to begin this coming weekend.
The plan has progressed thanks to the efforts of the Port Jefferson Business Improvement District and Pro Port Jefferson Association, a group assembled to act in the interest of restaurant owners in the village. During a contentious public village board meeting in early June, members of the community spoke out against and in favor of the plan after Tommy Schafer, owner of Schafer’s and Tommy’s Place, and John Urbinati, owner of The Fifth Season restaurant, and others revealed the plan to the public.
At the time the village board had not been involved in the planning or implementation of the service, but because the designated staging area for car drop off is on village property, they had to approve the plan, which they had since the June meeting. The plan will proceed as a pilot with the possibility of cancellation at any time at the discretion of the village, according to Mayor Margot Garant.
The service will function pursuant to a contract between the BID and the Port Jefferson School District. The municipal parking lot on Maple Avenue across the street from the fire department will be used as a staging area. Cars will be dropped off at that spot, parked at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, then picked up from the same spot. The service will cost drivers $7. The pilot program will take place during the summer months until Labor Day on Fridays and Saturdays from 4 p.m. to midnight, and Sundays from noon to 11 p.m.
Valets will take cars from the lot behind Ruvo restaurant and bar, take a left on Maple Place, a right on Main Street, a right to cross over Barnum Avenue and a left into the high school lot. To return cars to the staging area for pick up, valets will exit at the opposite end of the lot onto Old Post Road then take a left on Main Street and a left onto Wynn Lane to re-enter the municipal lot. Valet drivers will not use Barnum Avenue, Tuthill Street or Spring Street, three residential roads which were discussed as possible routes during the June meeting, according to Garant.
Marge McCuen, a longtime village resident, spoke out against the proposed plan during the meeting because she didn’t want excess traffic on Tuthill Street, where she and her husband John live, during the night hours. She called the service an “invasion” of a residential area for the purpose of making money, a disturbance of quiet streets, and also objected to a lack of public hearings or advanced notice for residents.
“The whole thing is, they don’t seem to care about the people,” she said in a phone interview.
Schafer and Urbinati each expressed excitement for the possibilities at their respective restaurants now that customers will presumably have an easier time parking.
“I think it’s a great joint venture that the businesses and the village itself have been able to come together and make this project work,” Urbinati said in a phone interview.
Garant said resident concerns from the June meeting were taken into account in mapping out a pick up and drop off route, and the board aimed to have as little additional traffic on residential streets as possible.
The program is cost neutral for the village, and should revenue exceed the initial investment by Advanced Parking Services, the valet company in agreement with the BID, 25 percent of profits would go to the company and the remaining 75 percent would be split between the school district and village.