Dobie: Long Island parking problems

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. (Credit: Daniel Brennan)

Michael Dobie

Michael Dobie is a member of the Newsday Michael Dobie

Michael Dobie is a member of the Newsday editorial board.

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Another downtown, another parking meter problem.

This time it's Patchogue that's feeling some heat, but the complaints are just as off-base as the ones we wrote about last week in Bay Shore.

In that case, Islip Town decided to add meters to downtown Bay Shore to increase turnover of cars and loosen up parking spots. As the editorial board noted last week (http://nwsdy.li/1iWZT2P), countless studies have shown that free spots encourage workers and residents to park all day -- or several days -- and never move their cars, which keeps potential customers away from businesses.

Patchogue, after hearing similar complaints from business owners in the village's thriving downtown, installed 244 meters in January. And now some business owners are saying the meters are driving away customers who are getting ticketed for staying past the expiration time. The owners want code enforcement officers to back off, claiming they are too "aggressive."

One owner called meters "a dangerous threat" to the businesses.

Wrong.

Consider Long Island's thriving downtowns, places such as Rockville Centre, Huntington, Port Jefferson, Babylon and Northport. All have metered parking, or a mix of metered and free, and the formulas work. Patchogue has 2,000 parking spots downtown. The village plans to install meters in another 250 spaces, but that still means three-quarters of the village's parking places will be free -- and only a block or two from Main Street.

As for aggressive ticketing, Patchogue deputy mayor Jack Krieger says the village gives a grace period of 15 minutes before zapping someone. When you're paying for a half-hour at a time, 15 minutes is the most leeway you can give.

The bottom line is that the ticketing most likely seems "aggressive" and "excessive" because it's never been done before. This has all the makings of a growing-pains problem. Drivers aren't used to the meters being there and either don't see them or are ignoring them. Eventually, they'll get it, and the violations will drop -- as will the complaints.

Then there's the big picture. Business owners have asked the village for more parking, and officials are eyeing property to purchase for new lots and/or a garage. They plan to use the meter money -- currently $4,000 a week, not including violation fines, and likely to double when the new meters are in place -- to fund the $10 million plan.

Consider the meters the literal price of success. Patchogue is booming. This is what boomtowns do.