Port Washington mulls 2-hour parking

Betty Stephens hugs a parking meter outside her

Betty Stephens hugs a parking meter outside her art studio, "My Studio" on Main Street in Port Washington. (May 31, 2012) (Credit: Barry Sloan)

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A proposal to extend the number of hours shoppers can park along parts of Main Street in Port Washington has some business owners saying it's about time.

Under the proposal, which was the subject of a public hearing at the Town of North Hempstead's board meeting on May 29, two hours of parking would be allowed along portions of Main Street, and the meters would run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., instead of until 6 p.m.

The matter will be taken up again at the board's June 19 meeting.

Betty Stephens, who owns an art studio on Main Street, said some of her students keep track of when to drop their paintbrushes and grab their quarters by using timers they keep in their supply boxes.

"They're going off at different times -- you hear 'bing, bang, blast!' " Stephens said.

She said while her students have gotten used to the interruption, the one hour time limit is still inconvenient.

"They're watching the clock," Stephens said. "There's a point of creative entry. If you're interrupted in the middle of it, you have to start all over and play catch-up."

The town has 840 meters in Port Washington, the only place in the unincorporated part of North Hempstead where meters can be found.

The meters charge 25 cents for an hour and offer 10 minutes for free by pushing a special button. Tickets for parking at an expired meter are $55, according to the town.

Paul Oleksiw, president of the Greater Port Washington Business Improvement District, said his group has been lobbying for increased parking time on Main Street for more than a year -- first with former Councilman Fred Pollack, then with his successor, Councilwoman Dina DeGiorgio, who brought forward the current proposal.

Oleksiw said the idea was especially popular with hair salons, restaurants, medical offices and other businesses whose services typically take more than an hour.

Patricia Vunk, owner of The Dolphin Bookshop on the corner of Main Street and Shore Road, said she feels the meters work against the small-town feel of the business district.

"As a whole community, we want to create an environment that's relaxing and inviting," Vunk said. "And when everyone's in a panic because they missed the meter by five minutes and they get a parking ticket, it kind of undoes all the work we've done."

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