In their first few weeks of operation last month, the long-anticipated parking meters along Bay Shore’s commerce district brought a mix of feelings among local patrons and business owners.
A series of public meetings held by town officials in 2014 to discuss the impending parking program drew hundreds of unhappy residents and shop and restaurant owners uncertain about how the meters would affect their outings and businesses.
But on a recent afternoon, several downtown patrons said they were adapting to the cost of parking that they’ve seen in other burgeoning downtown areas.
Margaret Maloney, 59, a real estate agent who has lived in Bay Shore her whole life, said she is “absolutely OK” with the meters.
“You can see the change in Bay Shore, the great revitalization,” Maloney said. “People don’t like change but if the money goes back into upkeeping the area, that’s a good thing.”
Islip officials have said revenue from the parking meters will go toward the upkeep of public parking lots, an expenditure the town previously said it could not financially handle. The town was unable to provide an estimate of how much revenue the meters would generate.
In 2014, the town awarded a $750,000 contract to Cale America, Inc., a Florida-based company, for the meters and later issued a five-year bond to pay for them. The parking meter program in Bay Shore, which started at the Maple Avenue docks near the Fire Island ferries and has since expanded to the hamlet’s Long Island Rail Road parking lot and the Bay Shore Marina, was said by town officials to be a pilot program before it reaches other popular strips in Islip Town.
The meters were turned on during the first week of November after the Town of Islip marked and numbered 200 parking spaces and installed 26 meters, said Caroline Smith, an Islip Town spokeswoman.
The meters, in effect from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, run along Main Street from Fifth Avenue to Homan Avenue and onto side streets including Maple, Ocean, 3rd, 4th, Park and Smith avenues. Motorists must pay 25 cents for 20 minutes from 9 a.m. to midnight, with a two-hour time limit until 6 p.m., Smith said.
While many patrons are adapting to the meters, some business owners still say they will prove to be detrimental.
Andrew Siben, of the law firm Siben and Siben, which has been on Main Street since 1960, has been an outspoken critic of the meter program, calling it a “money grab” by the town. He collected hundreds of signatures on a petition against the meters and presented them to the town in 2014.
“We’re not at all pleased to see these meters here. I worry about losing business. I’m already getting complaints from clients,” Siben said last week. “I feel like the town didn’t even entertain our petition. I suspected they didn’t even look at it, quite frankly.”
Town Councilman John C. Cochrane Jr., who led the parking-meter effort since its inception, has in the past dismissed the petitions by saying that many of the signers reside outside Bay Shore. He also has said that he has heard directly from business owners who think parking turnover along Main Street is vital to bringing in customers.
But Stephen O’Neill, 56, the owner of Ralph’s Famous Italian Ices on Main Street, who has had his shop there for about eight years, said he worries about the meters’ potential impact on driving customers away.
“It was a wait-and-see back then, and still now we’ll just wait and see how it works out,” O’Neill said.