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Long IslandColumnistsJudy Cartwright

Handicapped parking spaces don't add up

Gary Drury at one of three Syosset LIRR

Gary Drury at one of three Syosset LIRR commuter lots. Drury says he must arrive no later than 7:15 a.m. to use one of the 13 handicapped parking spaces. (March 28, 2012) Photo Credit: Judy Cartwright

A recent Watchdog column about handicapped parking spaces in a commuter lot in Hicksville led to reaction from several readers about parking situations they face. One concerned not the design of such parking -- in Hicksville, the spaces lacked the required access aisles -- but the numbers.

That question came from Oyster Bay resident Gary Drury, who asked: "Is there a formula for how many spaces there should be?"

The numbers are specified by the Americans With Disabilities Act guidelines. And in the lot where Drury parks each morning, they don't add up.

Drury said he arrives at the Syosset LIRR station no later than 7:15 each morning because the spaces marked with handicapped parking signs fill quickly -- by 7:30. "It seems there should be a lot more handicapped spaces," he said in an email. "Any help would be appreciated."

Under ADA guidelines, the number of such spaces is based on the size of a parking lot. And it turns out that the Syosset station falls short.

The Town of Oyster Bay said last week that the parking lots will be reconfigured to meet ADA requirements. The move comes after the town's recent announcement that it would redraw the Hicksville lot to give each handicapped space access to a striped aisle.

The town has arranged for an expert in Americans with Disabilities Act regulations to inspect not only the commuter lots -- the town also has lots at stations in Bethpage, Glen Head, Locust Valley and Massapequa -- but all other municipal parking, spokeswoman Phyllis Barry said. Any lot not deemed ADA compliant will be reconfigured, she said.

At the Syosset station, Drury parks in the lot north of the tracks, which the town says has 732 spaces. Twelve are outlined in blue with handicapped logos on the pavement, and a space near the ticket office is designated Handicapped Pickup and Discharge.

The number of spaces isn't far short of the ADA requirement for a lot that size (501 to 1,001 spaces): 2 percent are to be set aside for handicapped parking. By that standard, the town would need 14.

But that number doesn't take into account the station's other two parking lots south of the tracks, which haven't set aside any spaces for handicapped parking. Together those lots have more than 500 spaces. Based on the ADA standard, several more spaces will need to be marked for handicapped parking. When the reconfiguration is complete, the number will meet ADA requirements, Barry said.

The current handicapped parking row -- like the ones in Hicksville, it is uninterrupted by access aisles -- is near a ramp leading to the north platform. But some westbound trains leave from the south track, Drury said, "so if you're disabled you have to get over there." And that means exiting the north lot and turning south to cross over the tracks at Jackson Avenue to reach a ramp to the south platform.

Drury pointed out one more repercussion of the existing parking arrangement: "In the middle of the day anyone wanting to get into the city would find no handicapped spots available."

Work on the Syosset lots will be done on weekends, Barry said, so it doesn't interfere with weekday commuter parking.

"Compliance is a process that's already under way," she said.

Federal standards for handicapped parking

The federal Americans with Disabilities Act requires a minimum number of accessible spaces, depending on the total spaces in a parking lot:

One to 25 total spaces: Minimum of one accessible space

26 to 50: two

51 to 75: three

76 to 100: four

101 to 150: five

151 to 200: six

201 to 300: seven

301 to 400: eight

401 to 500: nine

501 to 1000: 2 percent of total

1001 and over: 20, plus one for each 100 over 1000

NYS rules for handicapped parking

New York State's requirements for handicapped parking are more stringent than the ADA's, according to Matthew Dwyer, director of Nassau County's Office for the Physically Challenged.

New York requires each parking space to be next to a 96-inch striped aisle. Under ADA guidelines, those aisles are 60 inches wide, with one 96-inch aisle for every six spaces. The wider aisles are intended for van access.

Access aisles are intended to provide maneuvering space for people who rely on walkers, braces, crutches and wheelchairs.

In addition, New York requires a "No Parking Anytime" sign on each access aisle, Dwyer said.

Push for left-turn arrow pays off

The Marcus Avenue-New Hyde Park Road intersection has a new left-turn arrow, thanks to the persistence of Hazel Kaufman-Pachtman.

"It's an example of what people can accomplish if they set their minds to it," Kaufman-Pachtman said last week when she told us that a new traffic signal is in place for drivers on westbound Marcus Avenue turning south onto New Hyde Park Road.

She set out several years ago with her husband, Sheldon, to improve conditions at the intersection and, in 2010, contacted Community Watchdog for help: "We take our lives in our hands trying to head south onto New Hyde Park Road from Marcus," she wrote at the time. "The Town of North Hempstead's Clinton G. Martin Park is on Marcus and many Project Independence members who are seniors drive there for activities. The three other sides of the intersection all have left-turn arrows. We've been asking for this for four years." The intersection was "a tragedy in the making," she said.

Nassau's Department of Public Works said it learned of the request in 2009. A year later, the county undertook a traffic study and concluded that a left-turn arrow was needed. The new signal was installed March 13, county Department of Public Works spokesman Michael Martino said.

For Kaufman-Pachtman, the lesson is clear: People who see the need for improvement in a given situation can make a difference. And that difference may require repeated efforts.

"We finally got the arrow," she said.

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