Some residents near the Long Island Rail Road's Merrick and Bellmore stations say out-of-towners are making it difficult for local commuters to find spots in the stations' parking lots on weekday mornings.
The two stations are the only Nassau County locations on the Babylon branch that do not have reserved parking for town or village residents. As a result, commuters farther east in Oyster Bay Town and Suffolk drive to those two stations to park because their fare into New York City is cheaper and the lots are free, community leaders said.
"At the Merrick station, you can't find a parking spot after 7 a.m.," said Claudia Borecky, president of the North and Central Merrick Civic Association and chairwoman of the LIRR Parking Lot Committee that grew out of the civic group.
The committee has been asking town officials for more than two years to implement permit parking at the Merrick and Bellmore stations, said Borecky, whose group surveyed commuters and found 15 percent are from outside Hempstead Town.
The town said last week it is working with the LIRR to "explore the possibility" of a pilot permit parking program for town residents for a portion of the spaces at both stations. The number of spaces that might be subject to permit parking has not been determined, town spokesman Michael Deery said.
"The town has been exploring this matter for several months, reviewing parking field maps and researching parking jurisdiction issues," he said.
LIRR spokesman Sam Zambuto said in a statement, "The LIRR and the Town are confident that our collaborative efforts will benefit . . . commuters and town residents." He added that four of the 10 stations on all LIRR lines where Hempstead Town has jurisdiction contain restricted spaces.
A parking permit would cost $3 a year and would allow commuters who live in Hempstead Town to park in spaces reserved for permit parking only. Permits currently issued by the town clerk's office for other stations are meant to prevent nonresidents from parking in town-maintained commuter lots. Parking without a permit in a municipal lot that requires one can result in a total fine of $105.
"The pilot program should be a win-win for local residents and commuters," said Legis. David Denenberg, who represents the area and hosts regular meetings on LIRR issues.
LIRR Parking Lot Committee member Larry Rubinstein, of Bellmore, said some residents might be resistant to paying a fee.
"They have to understand that it is to get the benefit to get closer spots," Rubinstein said. "It's going to push them [nonresidents] further away and the parking spaces available to them would be limited."
Rubinstein said he often finds himself circling the lot or parking illegally on mornings when his Manhattan TV job does not require him to leave at 4 a.m.
Borecky said she hopes the pilot program would open up parking for town residents.
"We are hoping that this works," Borecky said. "Until you put it into practice we won't know."