Patchogue parking enforcement worries business owners

Lori Belmonte, 57, of Patchogue, and co-owner of Lori Belmonte, 57, of Patchogue, and co-owner of The Colony Shop, stands next to one of the many parking pay stations located along Main Street in Patchogue, on May 1, 2014. Belmonte and other business owners feel that the parking fines for expired meter parking are driving away business. Photo Credit: Daniel Brennan

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Several Patchogue business owners say downtown street parking enforcement is alienating customers who come from as far away as Queens and who are tired of being ticketed in the village when they shop or eat in restaurants.

More than a dozen merchants complained to the village board last week that customers say ticketing in the village is excessive.

Code enforcement officers are "very eager to give tickets," said Lori Belmonte, owner of the Colony Shop on Main Street, adding that she wants less parking regulation.

The village has seen strong business growth along its Main Street, attracting customers to a number of new shops and restaurants. The village board passed a resolution last year to address inadequate parking downtown and to find ways to fund additional parking lots, adding 244 spaces with metered parking. Enforcement began in January with a monthlong grace period, officials said.

David Kennedy, executive director of the Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce, said many shoppers are directing their frustration toward village business owners, promising never to return.

"There has been excessive enforcement of parking regulations the past month," he said. "The village did a couple of good things such as having a grace period, but not many people were shopping in January."

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Village Mayor Paul Pontieri said ticketing has not been excessive and that not much could be done about the complaints. "This is the situation we're in," he said. "We created metered parking to fund more parking."

Officials said more than $42,000 has been raised through new metered parking and they are considering buying property to build new lots, which could cost up to $10 million.

Village owners said something else should be done.

"I plead with you to rethink the metered parking in the lots," David Seigel, owner of Blums, a swimwear and apparel store, told the board. "This is a dangerous threat to our customers and livelihood."

But village resident Dennis Ross told opponents of the meters they were wrong.

"The meters are solving problems," he said.

More than 50 people attended the meeting, the largest turnout in a few years, officials said.

Kennedy suggested conducting a campaign through Memorial Day to inform residents and visitors about the parking meters.

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He also suggested that first-time violators be sent a "friendly" warning letter about parking violations instead of a ticket.

"If they get a second ticket, then it's fair game, but a warning will increase goodwill," he said.

Belmonte explained that one recent customer came into her business searching for change to pay for a meter and found a ticket on his or her car windshield minutes later.

"My customers aren't going to pay for parking or walk a few blocks. They want convenience," she said, adding there should be free downtown parking and less enforcement.

Parking in Patchogue

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Paid street parking began in Patchogue Village in January with the establishment of 244 spaces with metered parking. This was the first step in the village's plan to introduce paid parking,

including in parts of three parking lots in the downtown business district. There are roughly 2,000 parking spaces downtown, another 250 of which are expected to be metered in June.

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