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Hempstead to meet on ordinance requiring free air at gas stations

Hempstead Town officials are planning to amend a

Hempstead Town officials are planning to amend a town ordinance requiring service stations, like this BP in Hempstead, to provide free air for tires. Feb. 21, 2017 Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

Hempstead Town officials next month are planning to amend a town ordinance requiring service stations to provide free air for tires.

Town board members postponed a public hearing on the ordinance Tuesday because the town attorney said the town is responding to a lawsuit from business owners and seeking to meet with service station operators and trade groups ahead of the March 7 board meeting.

The amended ordinance would amend the hours that businesses are required to provide free air, which was originally set to be 24 hours in August.

Last month, a state Supreme Court judge issued a stay on the town’s ordinance. A group of service station owners and trade associations sued the town after the law was passed in August.

Nassau Supreme Court Justice Karen Murphy issued the stay after service station owners said the ordinance unfairly required stations to provide air when businesses were closed. They also said the ordinance would require them to replace machines.

Town officials held a public hearing in March 2016 citing a 1978 ordinance requiring service stations to provide free compressed air for inflating tires during the hours the station was open.

Under the ordinance, service stations were still able to charge a fee “as long as availability of free air was made known in bold type.”

Businesses not following the law were threatened with fines ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 or imprisonment for not complying.

The ordinance was amended to exclude the 24-hour service requirement during a public hearing in March. That requirement was later added back in when it was passed in August.

The town opposed the injunction in court, but the court ruled the town violated the state’s open meeting law by adding the 24-hour provision back into the ordinance.

“This was no small change,” Murphy wrote. “By its conduct, the Board effectively precluded discussion regarding the 24/7 requirement.”

Town officials would not comment on the judge’s ruling.

Attorneys for 200 small businesses on Long Island said they are not seeking any monetary damages from the town and have offered to provide free air compressors on town property.

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