The Stewart Manor Village Board, amid community outcry, has voted to postpone charging staff and teachers a parking fee at a neighboring elementary school until after officials meet to discuss the issue.
The $50-a-month fee on 38 spots at Stewart Manor Elementary School was to take effect Wednesday, but the board at a packed Village Hall meeting Tuesday night faced rising opposition from school officials, staff and parents, and shifted gears.
After the law authorizing the fees passed Aug. 6, the school turned a parcel of playground blacktop into a makeshift parking lot, now topped with yellow lines and stop signs. The loss of recreation space concerned parents and students.
Tuesday night, Mayor Gerard Tangredi read a statement to a crowd of 60, explaining the need to raise revenue:
“We are now asking the people who park their vehicles in designated village areas, which [have] been free of charge for 50 years, to assist the residents in paying to maintain services ...”
He continued: “Everyone must realize that the ever-increasing tax burden placed on the residents must be thwarted and other nontax revenue sought. Stewart Manor values its school, but the school administration made the decision to take away the children’s playground to create staff parking, not the village.”
However, he said there were “ongoing conversations” with school Principal Hope Kranidis and Elmont Superintendent Al Harper over the issue. “We hope to be able to resolve any of the difficulties that have arisen over this contentious issue,” Tangredi said.
The matter unsettled, parents, residents, and even a fifth-grader pleaded for a complete reverse of course. That student, Julia Kurzrock, was greeted by thunderous applause.
“It will hurt the children and the community,” she said of the fees. “We should go back to the way the school has been successfully doing it for decades.”
John Egan, a trustee, said the measure reached was the result of difficult circumstances. “Some people are saying raise the taxes. You have elderly people in this village; they’re on fixed income,” he said.
Still, some parents were not satisfied with the village’s response.
“I’m glad they’re going to reconsider, I have a feeling they’re just blowing smoke,” said Louise Kurzrock, Julia’s mother. “They’re just saying that to take the pressure off.”