Some Huntington officials are criticizing the town's recent decision to raise parking meter rates as a "money grab" that will hurt struggling merchants in the town's downtown shopping district.
At the April 16 board meeting, the town board narrowly approved a resolution making all meters $1 an hour, including the cheaper meters located on the perimeter of the downtown district. Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci and council members Ed Smyth and Eugene Cook voted in favor of the resolution. Council members Mark Cuthbertson and Joan Cergol voted against it.
While most meters in the downtown area were already $1 an hour, there were some meters on the south end of the village that were $0.50 an hour. Those will be reprogrammed to the higher rate this summer, according to town spokeswoman Lauren Lembo.
“Parking turnover is important for the entire downtown Huntington economy," Lupinacci said in an emailed statement. "The equalization of rates will increase turnover for all on-street parking, and we have been in discussion with merchants about how we can all work together to improve the parking experience."
Cuthbertson criticized the rate increase as making money off a dire parking situation without prior discussion with business owners. "It's a money grab, plain and simple," he said in a phone interview. "The town board should go back to what we promised the merchants and the consortium that we wouldn’t change the rates until we first consulted with them and made progress."
Cergol called on Lupinacci to hold off on the rate increase until more parking is built in the village. "We’re in favor of them rolling back in the increase," she said in a phone interview. "Now is not the time."
Parking in downtown Huntington has been a logistical headache going back decades, Cuthbertson and Cergol said in a letter issued May 9. "Merchants have been working with the Town for a number of years to explore both immediate and longer-term measures to address the parking situation ... when they supported a consultant’s conclusion that construction of [a] long-discussed parking garage was both financially feasible and desirable," they wrote.
Lupinacci said his administration is tackling the parking problems with increased enforcement of parking violations, including a dedicated public safety patrol, and a new parking payment app.
“This is just one of many steps this administration is taking to address the longtime parking congestion issue, including strengthening penalties for nonpayment of parking summonses and increasing parking enforcement ... " he said in the statement. "No administration has done more to alleviate parking congestion in downtown Huntington than ours.”
Bob Klein, the owner of Book Revue on New York Avenue, said he was worried the raised parking prices will further deter shoppers from coming downtown.
"The internet is taking a big bite out of retail, and we want the situation in town to be as welcoming to people as possible," he said in a phone interview. "People already have been having problems with the parking situation downtown, and the remedy is to raise the prices? That’s the exact wrong thing to do."
Lupinacci said the increase is not about money.
“It’s not about monetization," he said. "It’s about encouraging behavioral change to increase parking turnover.”
Primary zone meters ($1 an hour):
New York Avenue
Secondary zone meters (formerly $0.50 an hour):
Side streets such as Gerard Street, Anderson Place, Clinton Avenue, Wall Street, New Street, Elm Street and East and West Carver streets
Outer areas of New York Avenue