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Bay Shore business says English-only signs hurt downtown

A local business says Spanish-speaking visitors have a

A local business says Spanish-speaking visitors have a hard time understanding the parking signs in downtown Bay Shore, seen on May 16, 2017. Credit: A local business says Spanish-speaking visitors have a hard time understanding the parking signs in downtown Bay Shore, seen on May 16, 2017.

Bay Shore Spanish-speakers may not be using downtown businesses as frequently as before a metered parking program was introduced because there are no Spanish parking signs, area clinic workers said Thursday.

Quest Medical Center employees said they have lost about a third of their patients since the parking program began in November 2016. All signs on parking regulations and meter use are in English.

Office manager Doreen Woolford said the clinic’s average of 150 patients daily had dipped to about 90. The clinic recently laid off four of 25 staffers.

“The Spanish-speaking population can’t understand, and the area is largely bilingual,” Woolford, 37, said. “A few people had to lose their jobs over it.”

Jacqueline Vasquez, a front desk employee at the Maple Avenue clinic, said patients do not want to follow up on their health care because of the added confusion and cost. There is a small free lot but patients often have to park on the street or in municipal lots.

“It’s a lot of not knowing if they’re going to get a parking ticket,” Vasquez, of Bay Shore, said.

About 25 percent of Bay Shore’s population speaks Spanish, according to 2012-2016 U.S. Census estimates.

Islip Town spokeswoman Caroline Smith said the town is working with pay station vendor Cale America Inc. on creating signage in other languages. Meter users can already select the language displayed on screen.

Smith said there is “no talk” of issuing other parking signs in Spanish.

Other downtown business managers said they have not noticed a change in the number of Spanish-speaking customers or heard complaints from Spanish-speaking employees.

Kenner Hernandez, the bilingual manager of Taco Guacamole, said he has not heard of the English-only signs causing a problem.

For Sam La Scala, manager of Pico Tequila, the signs’ language matters, even for English speakers. “My personal opinion is even the English-speaking signs are not clearly written,” La Scala said.

The parking program has been criticized by residents for its expense and inconvenience. The town says it is needed to manage the busy downtown’s parking.

Islip Town officials announced Thursday that drivers can now use a mobile app to pay for parking and remotely refill the meter, allowing customers to stay longer in restaurants and shops.

“We’re raising the parking program to a new level,” Supervisor Angie Carpenter said.

Other municipalities, including Great Neck Plaza and Freeport, already use the Parkmobile app, which is free to download.

Islip officials said the town is not paying Parkmobile for the service. Users pay a 45-cent fee per transaction. Parking costs 25 cents per 20 minutes or 75 cents per hour.

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