Judy Cartwright writes the Community Watchdog column
"Good Morning. Maybe you can do something about this."
That's how the email from Sean Marsar began. Marsar, who lives in Bethpage, gives the impression of being not simply polite but also enthusiastic about what each day may bring.
But even Marsar's good nature has its bounds. And when he wrote to Watchdog about a recent experience, his outlook was downright dour.
The day that darkened his mood started with an appointment to see a doctor at the year-old Veterans Health Clinic at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow. Marsar arrived and parked in a spot with a VETERANS CLINIC PARKING ONLY sign. When he returned to his car, he found a ticket: NO PARKING PERMIT.
In a tone far from upbeat, he wrote that the parking lot did not have a sign saying that a permit was required.
So he asked Nassau County to dismiss his ticket, and succeeded. But he said he wouldn't be satisfied as long as other unsuspecting veterans could find themselves in similar straits. And that's when he contacted Watchdog.
We can report that his request for help got results: Changes are being made to ensure that veterans who visit the clinic, as well as the Veterans Services Agency in the same NUMC building, don't wind up with a ticket on their windshields.
But first things first: What led to Marsar getting the parking ticket?
It turns out that the tickets were an effort by NUMC's security staff to make sure that visitors and employees didn't intrude in the veterans' parking spaces, NUMC spokeswoman Shelley Lotenberg said. Cars without a permit were routinely ticketed.
Marsar's ticket was one of several handed out to veterans parking in the lot, said John Marks, a retired judge who runs Nassau's Traffic and Parking Violations Agency. Some veterans managed to get the tickets voided immediately by NUMC, Marks said, and the county dismissed others, including Marsar's.
When it became clear the parking arrangement wasn't working as it should, Marks said, he spoke to County Executive Edward Mangano about the matter and then met with NUMC officials. The result is a new procedure designed to get a parking permit onto the car of each veteran visiting the site.
When a veteran shows up for the first time and does not have a permit, Lotenberg said, "he will be handed one and asked to place it on the windshield."
Permits of different colors will designate veterans "preapproved for an authorized clinic visit and those who are coming for the first time to obtain authorization from the office of veteran services," she said.
There's one more result of this episode: Marks said the number of parking spaces was found to be inadequate for the volume of veterans visiting both the clinic and the veterans services agency. As a result, several spaces in another parking area are being designated for clinic employees, a move intended to open up spaces for veterans.
Confusing sign will stay for now
New York State says this sign "is correct" -- but when it's due for replacement, the design will be changed to eliminate confusion.
Indeed. Some readers have pointed out that, for the geographically uninitiated, the sign on the LIE's South Service Road just east of Exit 57 seems to be directing eastbound drivers to turn left to get to Patchogue and right to get to Hauppauge. Which savvy Long Islanders know would not work out.
One reader, a retired teacher of first and second grades, says she spent her career trying to make things easy to understand -- and this sign fails that test. She suggested extending the arrows so each is closer to its designated community.
But Mark Herzog of Rockville Centre pointed out that newcomers could be misled. "If you are unfamiliar with the area you will have no clue what the sign means," he wrote in an email. "The direction arrows need to be placed more closely to the name of the town, the way the arrow for MacArthur Airport is."
After Watchdog told the state Department of Transportation about a reader's concern about the sign, department spokeswoman Eileen Peters said it "is correct . . . Nevertheless, we do understand that your reader was confused since there is so much space between the arrow and the destination name," the result of the long third line directing drivers to Long Island MacArthur Airport.
She said this is the "very first complaint NYSDOT received about this sign and it has been in place for many years."
When the sign is scheduled for replacement, she said, the department "will address this issue by reducing the spacing distance on the new sign."
Which is good news. After all, a sign should give direction to those of us who don't know which way to turn.