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Parking

The West Meadow Beach parking lot might soon see parking meters as part of Brookhaven’s plans to recoup $2 million in annual revenue. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Amongst the hard decisions stemming from approving its 2021 budget during the pandemic-induced economic downturn, the Town of Brookhaven has included a somewhat controversial change to how it will process parking at several town beaches and marinas.

As an offset to pandemic induced losses, the town voted unanimously Thursday, Nov. 19, to no longer have seasonal employees sitting in booths at town beaches. Instead officials are opting for a meter system, though residents who pay for a town parking sticker will be able to park freely.

The 2021 town budget was also approved Nov. 19 without discussion from the board.  

The biggest increases to the $307 million budget are in the form of a $2.34 million general fund property tax increase. This is being offset slightly by highway taxes, leading to an annual tax increase of a little under $9 for the average homeowner. It also remains under the 1.56% New York State tax levy cap. Garbage pickup will be set at $1 a day for a single-family home, or $365 a year.

In addition to the 2021 budget, the board opted to amend the current year’s capital budget to the tune of $900,000 for the new parking system. The town voted to issue new bonds worth $1 million in total to pay to acquire and install the new parking meters.

Meters are expected to be placed at the Holtsville Park, Sandspit Marina in Patchogue, Port Jeff Marina, Corey Beach in Blue Point, West Meadow Beach and Shoreham Beach. Anyone with a parking sticker will not have to pay into the meters. The meters, which aesthetically appear like those in Port Jeff village, are going to be active between May 1 and Oct. 15.

The town is discussing a $25 parking sticker fee per vehicle with a reduced price for additional vehicles in the household. Reduced fees for seniors and veterans parking stickers will still be available.  

Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said the town is paying millions of dollars for its part-time workers at these parks and beaches to monitor people coming in. Currently people without parking stickers pay $5 for the day at these beaches, but under the new system will only need to pay for the time spent at 50 cents an hour.

Officials said the new meters will work like they do in places like Port Jefferson, though the town did not discuss what the hourly rates will be. 

During the afternoon meeting, Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) called for discussion on the parking issue which created a few tense moments between the councilwoman and supervisor. Cartright said she was given very little time to present information about the parking system to her constituents, though she did receive some comments and questions from community members that did require some kind of presentation about the proposal.

“This discussion of having a parking meter system put in place has been a point of discussion over the past few years,” Cartright said. “Every time it’s been brought up, I’ve had my community members … [registering] objections to having parking meters there.”

Cartright did vote “yes” for the parking change, later citing in a letter to constituents that the added revenue from such a parking system will help the town as COVID has played havoc with its finances.

“It is our understanding from Parks Commissioner [Edward] Morris that this system will produce approximately $2 million in revenue annually,” Cartright wrote. “It is anticipated that there will be significant savings in eliminating the need for attendants to take payments and check stickers once this project is implemented. … Additionally, the potential health benefits of no longer exchanging cash for parking fees were also part of my consideration in light of the ongoing COVID pandemic.”

Herb Mones, the land-use chairman of the Three Village Civic Association, wrote a letter on behalf of the civic to Cartright and the Town Board arguing that it is the wrong time to start changing the parking system during a pandemic, especially when more people are seeking places like West Meadow Beach for some respite.

In a phone interview, Mones argued there had been effectively no public debate about the parking change and no notice, save for the letter Cartright sent to civic groups and constituents a few days before the Nov. 19 meeting. 

As a longtime resident and supporter of West Meadow Beach, he said that changing the parking system will affect the character of these parks and beaches. He added that staff manning the booths add a “ruralesque” charm to a public place, and that it also takes away the opportunity for the people at booths to screen incoming cars for things that might not be allowed at a beach or park, such as pets. 

“People in attendance at the beach have been a staple of the rural or suburban ideal,” he said. “The town doesn’t respect the right for easy public access to facilities that we have paid for over generations. … For someone like me, it makes me very weary when the town makes a proposal that impacts one of the services we’ve come to understand and love.”

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Port Jeff's new contactless parking system allows people to use their phones, either through an app or by tapping to pay. Photo by Kevin Wood

Port Jefferson officials say the village’s new contactless parking kiosks have already shown increased usage in the short time the program has been active.

Port Jeff has been using Honk, a contactless parking payment company, since July 1. The company allows customers to pay for parking in two ways, one by downloading the phone app and the other by tapping their phone or scanning a barcode on a HonkTAP station. 

In a release, the app company said that last week, 1,227 people tapped to pay for parking. Kevin Wood, the village’s parking and mobility administrator, said the tap action accounted for 43% of total parking sessions last week as well. Wood added that the amount of growth they’ve seen so far was primarily because an app is not needed to pay.

“The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the need for digitized, touch-free parking payments,” Wood said. “Usage has skyrocketed and our help center has received very positive feedback.”

The technology also allows an option for drivers to receive text reminders when their parking session is set to expire and to add more time to their spot remotely. 

“We’re proud to partner with Port Jefferson, and to help provide a safe, welcoming experience for visitor parking,” said Michael Back, Honk President and CEO in a release. “It’s never been more important for tourist destinations like Port Jefferson to offer easy, touch-free parking payments.”

The village sees an average of 250,000 visitor parking sessions a year, and parking in the village’s more than 600 spots has become one of the most hot button issues for the community, both residents and businesses. The village is planning to soon start construction on a new parking lot on Barnum Avenue next to Caroline Avenue to add 44 new spots. That project is expected to cost a total of $814,069, with an existing $300,000 bond, $200,000 grant and $314,069 in parking funds.

 

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A Port Jeff parking ambassador sanitizes a parking meter. Photo from Port Jefferson Village

As Long Island started with Phase 4 opening Wednesday, July 8, Port Jefferson village is active in debating a number of topics both related to the pandemic and not. Here are a few updates from the village’s July 6 meeting.

• Metered parking started up again in Port Jeff July 1. Monday through Wednesday will remain free parking, and parking ambassadors are going around on heavily trafficked days to disinfect meters. Some meters have been converted so people can pay with their phones by tapping their devices with either Google or Apple Pay to the meters.

Main Street remains open for curbside pickup only on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Otherwise it is open for 1 hour parking only during those same times.

• Village officials agreed to pay Andy Fortier Fine Woodworking and Design $10,857 to finish up the last designs for the Harborfront Park stage. This includes permanent railings up to the stage and postings at the edges of the stage footprint which will handle the decorative sails meant to cover over the stage. The sails will be rigged up like on a sailboat so they can lift and cover the stage. The money is coming out of the Farmers Market Trust Account, which is made up of the fees merchants pay the village to set up their stalls. 

• Texaco Park in Upper Port is open, though the basketball hoop was taken down to dissuade contact sports. Reopening other parks in the village is a little more controversial. 

The trustees debated opening up Rocketship Park, with Mayor Margot Garant and trustee Stan Loucks concerned with the amount of traffic the park gets. Trustee Kathianne Snaden argued that beaches are already open with kids playing there as well, and that the village could try and open it to “see how it goes.” 

The village parks department is said to be spraying down benches and other equipment in the mornings as a kind of “routine maintenance,” according tovillage administrator Joe Palumbo. 

Officials also talked about adding free-standing hand-sanitizing stations to park entrances or potentially limiting park hours and capacity while having a person on staff monitoring how many people are in the park at a time.

• Garant said the village is working to codify a new rule setting a moratorium on any new parades for the foreseeable future. This comes after this past week when a right wing Facebook group Setauket Patriots filed a permit for their own parade for the Fourth of July weekend after the fire department canceled its annual event. That parade was in part a political response to a Black Lives Matter march that came through Port Jefferson two weeks before. Village officials approved that march, though officials also had reservations about that event. 

While the village still has to set up a date for a public hearing on a moratorium, Garant said they are adding an emergency order for village employees to put any new parade applications under stay, for the time being. 

“I think we made a mistake, and we need to just stop now and be careful about how we’re moving forward,” the mayor said.

At the July 6 meeting, the board also retroactively publicly approved the Setauket Patriots parade after having been polled on the decision remotely. All approved the parade except Garant, who had previously recused herself from that original decision.

• The village re-upped its contract with Social Butterfly, a web and social media agency based in Port Jefferson for $2,000 a month. Garant said the agency does posts to the village’s Facebook page and establishes events for the page. They also work with Port Jefferson and the country club’s website regarding events. Snaden asked if the agency can give more up-to-date statistics for page views and offer ways to work with Facebook’s algorithms so more people can see village posts.

• Port Jefferson approved at a monthly cost of $1,000 Garland Industries for IT services for the operation and maintenance of the Foreup system software. Foreup is software for managing tee times and other marketing for golf clubs. Brian Macmillan, the general manager of the Port Jefferson Country Club, said it will streamline current services and send out emails to market country club membership. The village capped the services for four months through October, with a chance to reevaluate the program after that time. 

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From left: Amanda Brosnan, Reid Biondo, David Rotunno, Kevin Wood, Connor Kaminska, Gavin Barrett. Photo by Kyle Barr

Four young men and one young woman can be seen by the meters in Port Jefferson with polo shirts emblazoned with Port Jefferson parking. Their job is to answer the question that’s on the lips of so many visitors and residents alike; “where do I park?”

Meters in Port Jefferson. File photo by Elana Glowatz

The first parking ambassador was introduced to the village last year, according to Kevin Wood, the village parking and mobility administrator.

“They bring that human touch to the operation of paying for a space,” Wood said. “Beyond that, they’re all Port Jefferson residents, so they know where everything is.”

All but one of the parking ambassadors are seniors at the Port Jefferson High School. Connor Kaminska, one of the village’s first parking ambassador, finished his first year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is back for the summer. Beyond fielding questions from confused visitors, Kaminska also uses his technical skills to fix the meter stalls he comes across

“I usually start off a shift with checking if they’re working,” he said. “If not then I usually fix them, take out the motherboards and catch boxes, just get them working… It’s nice being outside, helping people.”

The other four parking ambassadors include Port Jefferson High School seniors David Rotunno, Gavin Barrett, Reid Biondo and Amanda Brosnan. The young people work four to five days a week on four- to six-hour shifts, depending on how busy the village is at the time. They are paid $12 an hour, of which the money comes from the managed meter fund. During events like the Mini Maker Faire June 8, most of the ambassadors were out fielding questions about the meters.

Wood said, on a typical night, two ambassadors will be out for around four hours from 4 to 8 p.m. One is usually located on the west side of Main Street while the other focuses on the eastern end.

The parking administrator said the idea came from fielding many questions from visitors and residents while working on village meters.

“I found that 90 percent of questions are: how do I do this, what are the hours, does the machine give change, where is this restaurant, what time does this close, what time can I park here until,” he said. “The word ambassador is correct, Port Jeff ambassador.”

Brosnan saw an ad for the job on Facebook, and said she thought to herself, “Oh, I can walk around the village, help people and get paid for it.”

She added it’s especially helpful for when the village gets busy, and there’s hardly any spot to find within the entirety of Port Jeff. She usually suggests people find spots near the CVS or the Village Center in the back lot.

“Port Jeff is a tourist town, and people don’t know how to use it, even if there’s signs on the meters,” she said. “Sometimes the machine glitches, or just somebody isn’t sure what to do, so we’re there to help them with it.”

Biondo, a fellow high school senior, is also doing his first season as a parking ambassador. He finds he’s often acting as a facilitator for the parking meters, helping people understand how they can pay for their spot, where some machines don’t accept cash, and none give change. He also tries to tell people about the mobile app MobileNOW!.

“People do enjoy it, because it’s just one less hurdle for them to come and enjoy the village,” Biondo said.

“There’s no secret that there’s parking anxiety in Port Jeff.”

— Kevin Wood

Each of them has a consistent question they hear most often. Kaminska said he often hears about how one can add time to a spot and where certain restaurants are to give them “a lay of the land.”

Brosnan often gets asked where meters are, if meters apply directly to spots, or if they can be used for every spot in the village. Answer: the meters can interact with every parking spot.

Though it’s not necessarily an easy job. The ambassadors are always on their feet. With smart watches and Fitbits. Biondo said he has tracked more than 30,000 steps in a day, while the lone girl on the ambassador team said she had once tracked over six miles of walking distance in a shift.

All but Kaminska will be graduating by the end of June. Brosnan will be going to Salve Regina University in Rhode Island, Rotunno will be going to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Barrett will be going to Binghamton University in Upstate New York, and Biondo will be attending the University of Virginia.

Wood said their work has been invaluable so far this season.

“There’s no secret that there’s parking anxiety in Port Jeff,” Wood said. “These wonderful human beings just by being present calm that anxiety.”

More about parking can be found at https://portjeff.com/parking/

Huntington town board listens to residents complaints at a March 5 meeting. Photo by David Luces

By David Luces

In response to the Town of Huntington proposed legislation to change the town’s traffic code, residents voiced their concerns and displeasure of the possible stricter penalties and its potential ramifications at a public hearing at Town Hall March 5. 

The proposed amendments would increase fines for violations, enhance enforcement and help collect on parking violations. These changes are part of the town’s approaches to alleviate parking issues in Huntington.

Engineer and Huntington resident Daniel Karpen took exception to the changes, saying it would bar residents from obtaining town-issued permits until parking tickets are cleared up.

“I don’t know why one has to deal with the other — why would you want to penalize people who want to take their child to the beach but have to deal with a ticket when they couldn’t find a place to park,” Karpen said. “This is mean to the public.”

Part of the parking changes would also include a requirement that parking summons and tickets be answered within 30 days or face an imposed default judgment, the nonrenewal of their New York State motor vehicle registration and possible immobilization.

Karpen cited the reason residents are getting fined is because there is a shortage of parking spaces in Huntington. He said a year ago he came to a town board meeting asking for more small car parking lots in the area. 

“I liked to know what progress has been made to put small car parking lots in downtown Huntington,” he told the town board. 

Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) responded that the town has eyed several locations for additional parking areas and mentioned they are awaiting the final results of the $16,000 study of a proposed parking garage, which was approved in October, 2018. 

“We do believe stronger enforcement will encourage a change in driver behavior and end the abuse of time limits for free parking, both of which we expect to have a positive impact on the parking experience in downtown Huntington,” Lupinacci said.

Currently, the fine for not paying for parking in one of the town’s metered spaces comes out to $25. If Lupinacci’s proposed changes are approved the charge would increase to $75. If an individual is caught without a permit in a handicapped spot, the charge would increase from a flat fine of $200 up to a maximum of $600. 

Paul Warburgh, who has been a parking violation volunteer for the town for over five years, said under the resolutions the town would do away with the volunteers, and their duties would be taken over by the town’s uniform public safety officers. 

“The volunteers are on duty seven days a week, 24 hours a day,” Warburgh said. “I’m on duty at the Stop & Shop at 8:30 in the morning witnessing fire lane and handicapped violations.” 

He acknowledged the need for some changes to be made to the volunteer program, but it didn’t mean the town should get rid of it and asked the board to reconsider the proposal. 

“Are we going to get a uniformed officer there at that time, or at the post office at night when people decide to pull into the handicapped parking spaces because they feel like they’re entitled to do so?,” Warburgh said. “We are the enforcement — we provide a public service and we try to do our best.”

Jeff Bartels, of Lloyd Harbor, brought up the issue of handicapped parking within the town. 

“Who is getting some of these handicapped permits?,” he asked. “I mean I see these construction trucks [parked] — the guy is doing constructing and has a handicapped tag on his mirror. How can you be handicapped and be a contractor — that doesn’t really fit.” 

Linked with the proposed changes is also an amnesty program. The town will be offering a one-time 40 percent discount on the balance of an unpaid parking fine through April 1 as it tries to deal with residents owing more than $1.8 million in about 4,700 unpaid parking summonses and penalties.

The Port Jefferson, Stony Brook University Shuttle was cancelled this March, though the village hopes to start it up again next year. Photo from Kevin Wood

The Port Jeff Jitney will soon bear the Stony Brook University logo and bring SBU Seawolves directly into the heart of the village.

A new program, which offers a free mobility loop for riders between the university and the Village of Port Jefferson, will start its first pilot season March 7. The village will be repurposing the 20-seat jitney bus for this program.

“We consider Stony Brook University a true partner with the village and an economic engine,” said Port Jeff Mayor Margot Garant. “This program will bring students and faculty to the village in an efficient way with no cost to the rider, offsetting the average Uber fee of well over $13 one way. This program also greatly helps with our goals to free up our parking lots — something we constantly look at in our managed parking program.”

“We consider Stony Brook University a true partner with the village and an economic engine.”

— Margot Garant

The loop was first presented to village trustees at their Feb. 4 meeting by Kevin Wood, the village parking administrator, who said the program will be administered by the Port Jefferson Parking & Mobility Resource Center. The program will cost the village approximately $13,000, though the village is looking toward the university to pick up the
promotional costs.

The loop will start at the Port Jefferson Rail Road Station along Main Street in what’s known as Upper Port, before heading into Arden Plaza in the village, continuing up West Broadway down Route 25A, stopping at Stop & Shop in East Setauket. Once on the Stony Brook campus, it will make stops at the main circle loop, West Campus and the Chapin Apartments before coming back down Route 25A and ending at the train station. 

The pilot program will run until May 23 and have times starting on Thursdays from 3 to 9 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wood said one does not need to show ID to enter the bus; otherwise, the program is free for students and university faculty.

The village and university are hosting a kickoff event March 7 to celebrate the first run of the bus. The event will also showcase tracking of the bus with a phone app, which Wood said should help cut down on frustration in knowing when it will arrive. The free app, Passio Go!, is currently available on both the Android Play store and the iTunes marketplace.

“It will certainly help students and faculty — there is no cost to ride. It will help free up our parking lots too.”

— Kevin Wood

The existing Port Jefferson Jitney has seen its share of riders in the past, such as the Friday and Saturday of the Sept. 15 weekend during the Dragon Boat Day Festival and the weekend of the annual Charles Dickens Festival, when the jitney had a ridership of 164 and 125, respectively, last year. On off weeks, the jitney has seen a low of 27 riders such as in the weekend of Sept. 8 and an average of approximately 70 riders in 2018.

Wood said while the idea has been around for about four years, he has been working diligently on it for the past four months. He said he expects the program might help rejuvenate the jitney’s ridership and mitigate some of the village’s parking issues.

“It’s a pilot, so we will see,” Wood said in an email. “It will certainly help students and faculty — there is no cost to ride. It will help free up our parking lots too.”

More information and a link to the bus locater app can be found on https://www.pjshuttle.com/.

Norhtport village residents packed the Jan. 29 public hearing regarding The Northport Hotel. Photo by David Luces

By David Luces

Northport residents came out in support of the business a local hotel could bring but raised concerns about the traffic that may come with it.  

Northport village held a hearing Jan. 29 on business owners Kevin O’Neill and Richard Dolce’s, of the John W. Engeman Theater,  proposal to construct a hotel-restaurant, The Northport Hotel, at 225 Main St. The much-anticipated project drew a large crowd to the American Legion Hall, which was packed to standing room only. 

Christopher Modelewski, an attorney representing O’Neill and Dolce, presented an updated site rendering of the hotel at the village public hearing Jan. 29. The rendering included changes they made to the site as a result of concerns raised by the planning board and area professionals. 

Study:  Northport has parking spots, if you walk

Northport residents voiced their concerns about a lack of parking along Main Street at a Jan. 29 public hearing on a proposed hotel and restaurant. Yet, a study released in December 2018 determined there are plenty of spots if people are willing to walk.

The Village of Northport hired Old Bethpage-based Level G Associates LLC to perform a paid parking study of Northport. Their survey, which took place from August to October 2018, concluded the village’s 615 parking spaces are sufficient, with a slight exception of summer evenings.

Northport’s central business district has a total 195 metered slots and 420 free spaces between Main Street and its side municipal lots, according to the study.  Nearly half of these spots are divided between streetside metered parking on Main Street, and the two free lots adjacent to the village’s waterfront parks.

On a typical weekday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Level G Associates found 60 percent of Main Street metered spots were taken and Main Street lots were full as well. However, the study cited roughly 100 available spaces in the waterside lots and Lot 7, located off Woodside Avenue by the American Legion hall.

“These are normal/healthy parking patterns for an active [central business district],” the report reads.

On Friday and Saturday evenings, Level G Associates found most metered parking spots and lots on Main Street were full. However, the study found “ample available parking” in the free waterside and Woodside Avenue lots that “are within reasonable walking distance for downtown employees or visitors.”

The only time traffic experts found an issue with the village’s parking was on summer nights, from 5 to 9 p.m. The study found the village’s parking is 95 percent full, often due to concerts and special event attendance, and could be improved through the addition of 72 spaces.

Tom Kehoe, deputy mayor of Northport, said the village board is being proactive in trying to address parking demands and congestion concerns.

“The evaluation provided us with some suggestions that we may consider,” he said.

Some suggestions include re-striping of  waterfront municipal lots could add 30 spaces, expanding the free lot by the American Legion to add 35 spots and development of a parking management plan. Other ideas given by Level G Associates are just not feasible, according to Kehoe such as leasing the parking lot used by the St. Philip Neri Church and Parish Center on Prospect Avenue.

Kehoe also said he has suggested moving the village’s Highway Department out of the Woodside Avenue lot to provide more spaces.

“It is a public safety issue,” the deputy mayor said. “You have the theater close by, snow plows are in there — that lot can get very busy.”

Kehoe said Northport residents are fortunate to live in a place where people want to visit and spend money, but in turn that causes more of a demand for parking. The village’s town board plans to continue the process of making these changes between now and the upcoming summer.

When the building plans were first presented to the village’s planning board in May 2017, O’Neill sought to construct a 24-room hotel and a 200-seat restaurant. Recent changes have  reduced the size of the restaurant to 124 seats with an additional 50 seats in the lobby and
bar area. 

Despite these changes, Northport residents continued to express concern about accessibility and how it could exacerbate parking issues in the village.

Tom Mele, of Northport, said he is for the creation of the hotel but argues it is off base to think that there isn’t an accessibility and parking problem in the village.

“If you [O’Neill] love this town as much as you say you do, you would find a way to work with the village board,” Mele said. “Work with them to decrease the traffic on Main Street and if that means downsizing the venue downstairs to accommodate the people, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for.”

Northport property owner Frank Cavagnaro expressed similar sentiments saying that the planning board shouldn’t accept the site plans as is. He viewed the parking issue as his main concern.

“You’re gonna come in and try to stuff five pounds of bologna in a 1-pound bag — it’s not going to fit,” Cavagnaro said. “Parking in the village is terrible, it’s going to kill the village.”

The  Village of Northport commissioned a parking study by Old Bethpage-based Level G Associates, released in December 2018, that found that during a typical weekday the downtown area “exhibited normal and healthy parking patterns.” While approximately 60 percent of Main Street metered spots were taken and the free Main Street lots were full, the study found 100 free spaces available during peak times in the in the municipal lots. 

Still, Cavagnaro presented a possible compromise to the village board. 

“Consider a smaller restaurant, to get him started with the option if we find more parking, for him [O’Neill] to come back to the board,” Cavagnaro said. 

Modelewski also cited a traffic impact study performed by Walter Dunn, a professional engineer and founder of Dunn Engineering Associates, and Tom Mazzola, former traffic and safety director for the Town of Huntington. The study found that the hotel would have a benign impact on the traffic in the area.  

O’Neill said under the proposed plans there would be no parking on Woodside Avenue and no right turn out of the two parking lots so traffic does not go into residential areas. 

“We will have the ability to take, between the theater and the hotel-restaurant operation,  roughly 150 cars off [the] street,” O’Neill said. “The village has 609 [parking] spots, for anybody in the industry that’s a seismic shift in the dynamics in how much parking is being provided.”

Residents were also concerned about the possibility of delivery trucks unloading on Main Street, which is not permitted under Northport village law according to Modelewski. 

“Tractor trailers and box cars double park behind cars — that’s unlawful,” the hotel’s attorney said. “There’s a reason why the law isn’t being enforced — it’s because it’s the only way businesses can function.”

Modelewski said O’Neill will work with the suppliers to use only box cars. 

Northport resident Alex Edwards-Bourdrez said the proposed hotel would fit the town beautifully. 

“I understand that there can be all these of glitches [in the process] but I would ask for all of us to rise up together in support of this,” Edwards-Bourdrez said. “We have all the brains in here to put the pieces together in a way that they won’t fall apart, it won’t choke the village — I don’t believe it will.”

Edwards-Bourdrez also touched on the issue of parking. 

“Nobody that goes into New York City or a bigger town worries about walking 5 to 10 minutes to where they are going,” he said. “There is parking, you just sometimes can’t park right next to where you want to go. We have to make these concessions for us to grow as a village.” 

The village’s parking study found that on a typical weekend, defined as Friday and Saturday evenings, there is ample available parking “within reasonable walking distance for downtown employees or visitors.”

Lenny Olijnyk, of Northport, said everybody was against the theater until O’Neill took over and renovated it in 2007. He argued that the hotel would increase the village’s commercial tax base. 

“Maybe we can clean up the streets a little bit, the sidewalks will get fixed,” Olijnyk said. “You have to think about that. The village wants to grow, my grandkids are going to live here. There has to be revenue for the village.”

O’Neill felt strongly in order for his theater business and others to strive they must work together in a positive way. 

“It’s just not sitting up here trying to make money, there’s more to it,” he said. “I don’t believe in sucking the community dry where we do business.” 

 

 

Representatives from Qwik Ride, Port Jefferson Village and the Port Jefferson BID announce the kick off of Qwik Ride in the village during a press event Nov. 5. Photo by Alex Petroski

Business owners and elected officials in Port Jefferson Village are confident they’ve finally found the antidote to the business district’s most talked about problem.

In an effort to open up parking for more visitors, the Port Jefferson Business Improvement District has partnered with Qwik Ride, a company that uses 100 percent electric vehicles summoned by a mobile phone application to alleviate parking constraints in downtown areas.

“We have tried a lot of different things,” Mayor Margot Garant said. “I think it’s fun, it’s mobile, it’s free — it solves all of our issues. It can help an employee park out of the village and open up a spot. It can bring a resident downtown and keep that spot open for somebody else. And I think they’re innovative and they’re flexible, and I think when you have a dynamic problem you need a dynamic solution.”

The service is offered free of charge to riders thanks to a sponsorship contract between the BID and Qwik Ride. One of the two cars allotted to Port Jeff Village is sponsored by the BID as a whole, while the second is sponsored by Tommy Schafer, restaurant owner, village resident and BID president individually.

“Parking is widely perceived as the major contributing factor to the demise of foot traffic in this village and the ultimate failure of so many businesses, so having an option to try to get around the parking problem by having people picked up and not having to bring their cars down into the village is an obvious benefit,” Schafer said. “They look fun to ride in too, so hopefully it’ll spur people on. The fact that it’s no charge, I can’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be a huge success.”

The contracts are for 20 months, with services being available beginning this Saturday, Nov. 10 from noon to midnight. Initially the cars will be running Thursdays and Fridays from 5 p.m. to midnight and 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Qwik Ride owner Dan Cantelmo said the company hopes to eventually have up to five cars sponsored in Port Jeff and service available seven days a week, though expansion will be based on demand.

Once operational, the service will pick up Port Jefferson residents in the 11777, and those traveling to the area from outside of the village are instructed to park in the CVS parking lot on Main Street near Earl L. Vandermeulen High School to summon the cars from there for transport downtown. The company has rolled out cars in Patchogue, Northport and Huntington villages earlier this year with great success, according to Cantelmo.

“All have a similar concept — trying to ease the parking and encourage people to park further away so that we can bring them into the town,” he said.

While the service is only planned to operate Thursday through Sunday in PJV at first, special events like the Charles Dickens Festival and popular nights out like the Wednesday before Thanksgiving will be covered as well.

The cars will be kept in the parking lot behind Village Hall when not in service, but the village has no other stake in the agreement, other than offering its support, according to Garant. During the summers of 2017 and 2018, the BID partnered with a valet parking company to offer a municipal parking service, an agreement that required village permission to use certain parking lots, though failed to garner enough usage to remain viable.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” said Roger Rutherford, general manager of The Port Jefferson Frigate. “ I think it’s going to mean more customers for us.”

The Town of Huntington's municipal parking lot between New and Green streets. File Photo by Rohma Abbas

Town of Huntington officials voted to take the next step forward in pursuing construction of a parking garage in Huntington village Oct. 23. Yet, both elected officials and business owners remain divided over whether it is the best solution to a decades-old problem in this modern era.

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) led the town’s Local Development Corporation in approving the release of up to $16,000 to investigate the feasibility of constructing a parking structure in Huntington village over the existing municipal lot between New and Green streets by a 4-1 vote.

“We want to continue trying to explore and see what our options are with that area to see if the ground is physically sound to build something,” Lupinacci said. “We don’t want to lose any grant money that may be available to us.”

We want to continue trying to explore and see what our options are with that area to see if the ground is physically sound to build something.”

—Chad Lupinacci

The $16,000 in funds will be used to conduct soil borings, a topographic survey of the area, prepare utility mark-outs and other necessary preliminary steps needed prior to start of construction, according to Lupinacci.

In December 2017, the town had been awarded a $1.7 million grant from the state’s Regional Economic Council for construction of a facility to ease the village’s long-term parking woes.

The town had previously contracted with Level G Associates of Bethpage who completed a report in May 2017 that determined it was both physically and economically feasible for the town to construct a 528-space parking deck. To date, the town does not have any conceptual plans for a garage, according to town spokeswoman Lauren Lembo.

That may be due in part to the divide between elected officials, local business owners and Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce on whether constructing a new facility is the best solution.

Councilman Eugene Cook (I) was the sole vote against further studies for a proposed parking garage between New and Green streets Tuesday night.

Why spend $16,000 if we may not need it,? There are stages that we need to go through to do it properly, and I think we are rushing it with this stage.”

— Eugene Cook

“Why spend $16,000 if we may not need it,” he said. “There are stages that we need to go through to do it properly, and I think we are rushing it with this stage.”

Cook said there are new town employees in the town’s Public Safety Department who are researching the cause of parking issues plaguing the town and expressed some “good ideas.” The councilman cited advances in technology, such as the future possibility of automated cars, could change both transportation and resulting parking needs of the area.

Brian Yudewitz, chairman of Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber holds a similar position that alternative solutions to a parking garage and modern technologies need to be more closely considered after getting feedback from its members. He said the town’s last parking study was done before the prolific use of ride services like Lift, Uber and the new Qwik Ride shuttles.

“The word we’re getting from a lot of merchants in town is those things are being used quite a bit,” Yudewitz said. “Another thing we do suggest is the re-evaluation of the structure of the municipal lots and paid parking structure as it stands to see if there’s a better way to get people in and out.”

The town implemented metered street-side parking in Huntington village in April 2014 and renewed its contract with Devo & Associates for the parking pay system Tuesday night for another three years through September 2021. Yet, the system has its critics.

I would be so in favor of them building even a two-story parking garage.” 

— Gabriel Garcia

“It’s upsetting for many people,” Gabriel Garcia, manager of Bistro Cassis said. “I understand why they do it, but you can’t expect people to park for only three hours if they want to spend a whole night out on the town.”

Garcia said available parking spaces in Huntington village remains his biggest concern, given patrons regularly express their frustrations to him and state they won’t visit the restaurant on weekends due to a lack of available slots.

“I would be so in favor of them building even a two-story parking garage,” he said.

He estimated only 30 percent of his restaurant’s clientele would be willing to consider using ride services such as Uber or the Qwik Ride shuttles, as they don’t rely on other sources for transportation.

Across town, Honu Kitchen & Cocktails owner Mark Zecher said he frequently sees customers utilizing Qwik Ride shuttles, since it started operating in August, and public transportation playing a positive role in addressing the area’s parking issues.

I always tell people, ‘If we didn’t’ have a parking problem, we’d all have a problem.'”

— Mark Zecher

“More and more people are using Uber, and it not only has to do with the parking situation but the drinking and driving laws,” Zecher said. “People are becoming much more conscious and responsible.”

Zecher said there is an ever-present need for more parking by the village’s businesses.

“I always tell people, ‘If we didn’t’ have a parking problem, we’d all have a problem,’” he said.

Despite his business being close to the proposed site of the parking garage, Zecher said he was unsure if more municipal lots or a new facility was the best solution for parking woes given potential costs or the possible impact of neighboring businesses during construction.

“At the end of the day, more parking spots would be good but how we get there and how it affects businesses along the way is a question I can’t answer,” Zecher said.

A Qwik Ride vehicle currently on the streets of Patchogue. Photo from Qwik Ride

Village of Northport officials are hoping business owners and residents will extend a warm welcome to a new transportation service prepared to roll out next week.

Qwik Ride will be expanding its shuttle service to downtown Northport Oct. 3, offering free pick-up and drop-off from/to area restaurants, stores and businesses. The company is based in Patchogue and launched a second service in Huntington village in late August.

“The Northport Village officials thought this would be great, once they heard that we were operating in Huntington,” Qwik Ride co-owner Daniel Cantelmo said. “ They reached out to us.”

“t’s a good fit because we have a parking problem. We’re going to have to do something in Northport to change what we do with our cars.”

— Tom Kehoe

Tom Kehoe, deputy mayor of Northport village, said he first learned about the service through members of the village’s Business Development Committee. The company offers rides in modified six-passenger golf carts equipped with heat and small television screens to shuttle passengers around busy downtown areas.

“It’s a good fit because we have a parking problem,” Kehoe said. “We’re going to have to do something in Northport to change what we do with our cars.”

The village has retained consultants Old Bethpage-based Level G Associates LLC to perform a paid parking study of Northport, according to Kehoe, which is already underway. Level G Associates has previously performed parking studies for other Suffolk towns including Huntington and Kings Park.

Kehoe said there is a need for the village to be proactive in tackling its parking issues given the proposed development on its horizon. Kevin O`Neill and his business partner, Richard Dolce, both of John W. Engeman Theater, have proposed plans to construct a hotel at 225 Main St. that are moving forward.

“There are people in the area that already can’t access Main Street because it’s too congested with traffic,” said Jim Izzo, vice president of Northport Chamber of Commerce. “This seems to be a viable alternative.”

Izzo, owner of Cow Harbor Realty, said he hopes that Qwik Ride can be part of the village’s multipronged approach to solving traffic congestion. He would like to see village business employees park further from Main Street to open up more spaces for clients and customers, leaving spots that will turn over at a faster pace.

There are people in the area that already can’t access Main Street because it’s too congested with traffic. This seems to be a viable alternative.”

— Jim Izzo

“It would be a big deal to get a lot of the parking spots freed up,” Izzo said.

The chamber’s vice president acknowledged that O`Neill already offers a valet parking system to assist theatergoers and help reduced Main Street backup.

“He’s been trying to solve the problem on his own,” Izzo said. “As a collective, we have a real chance of making a difference, not just a Band-Aid. If everyone got on board, it would behoove everyone.”

Qwik Ride gave a presentation to Northport chamber members at its Sept. 25 meeting. The company will start with two vehicles offering services via an app in the approximate geographic area from Napper Tandy’s on Route 25A/Fort Salonga north to James Street, then from Laurel Avenue west to the waterfront. The service area will be somewhat limited as Qwik Ride uses electric vehicles and given Northport’s hilly
topography.

“Parking is a serious situation that doesn’t get better by ignoring it,” Izzo said. “Some things are going to work and some things will fail miserably. If we don’t take a shot, we’ll never know.”