Smithtown residents who oppose a town plan to restore parking spaces at Morewood Park repeated their arguments at a town council meeting last week, but found little public support from town officials.
Supervisor Edward Wehrheim in an interview sided with town officials who said earlier this month that the four spots were needed to make the park accessible for handicapped residents and those who don’t live nearby. Morewood Park’s new playground sits at the end of hilly Abbot Road. Street parking is restricted, and there is currently no parking inside Morewood.
“Someone who wants to have young children utilize the new park — it’s not logical to expect those people to walk five or 10 blocks,” Wehrheim said. “There are people coming from other parts of that community with young children, with strollers to enjoy the park.”
Some residents who live in the area say restoring the parking spots could bring back problems with vandalism, drugs and underage drinking that plagued the park decades ago. “We don’t really have much confidence that that sort of activity is going to be controlled,” said Joe Bonamo at a Sept. 19 town council meeting.
He and others have asked that the town return on-street parking to the Abbot Road cul-de-sac instead of building the parking area inside the park. Town officials have said they are reluctant to do that for reasons including a need to keep the road clear for emergency vehicles and the possibility that future residents could object to on-street parking.
Wehrheim said the parking restrictions on Abbot Road were imposed “years ago” by resident request. The town in 1990 imposed no parking regulations for Abbot Road from the end of the park east for 220 feet.
Officials have also said the Americans with Disabilities Act obligated them to install the spots.
James C. Kozlowski, a lawyer and associate professor in the School of Recreation, Health, and Tourism at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, said that if the park is “inaccessible because of the terrain without parking, that would be a rationale” to require spots.
But town officials would have some discretion over where to put the spots, he said. “If everybody parks on the streets and there’s dedicated parking for the disabled, that certainly would be reasonable,” said Kozlowski, who has written about ADA compliance issues.