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Northport may restructure downtown parking meter system

Eileen Schoenhut, of Lynbrook, feeds a meter in

Eileen Schoenhut, of Lynbrook, feeds a meter in Northport on Thursday. Northport's village board is considering switching to a digital parking meter system downtown. Credit: Newsday / Steve Pfost

The parking woes created by the allure of Northport’s waterfront downtown may soon spur the village to update its meter system.

The village board is considering switching to centralized digital meter consoles for paid parking. Residents would be exempt from paying for parking downtown except in some on-street parking areas.

“In a way it’s a good problem that we have a parking problem,” said Mayor Damon McMullen in a phone interview. “It’s good for the businesses but at the same time it’s not good for the residents going to these shops in our own village.”

The village’s planned boutique hotel at Main Street and Woodside Avenue is driving some of the parking concerns.

“With the advent of the hotel it’s very timely that we’re kind of buttoning this up,” said trustee Tom Kehoe in a phone interview. “It’s going to be a great addition to the village but will create congestion.”

The village hired parking consultant Gerard Giosa, president of Level G Associates of Old Bethpage, to analyze options for metered parking. He estimated the village currently has 195 metered spaces and 420 free parking spaces.

At the board meeting last Tuesday, Giosa presented a potential management plan that would create “pay zones” in the village, including some areas near the marina that are currently free to all drivers such as Woodbine Avenue near Highland Avenue. The proposed plan would designate 275 long-term parking spots for local employees who would pay $10 a month for the spots, more than 200 on-street spots for $1 an hour for nonresidents or 50 cents an hour for residents, and more than 400 parking lot spaces that would remain free to village residents at all times.

The plan includes 34 multispace meter consoles, which could cost the village $31,800 a year. Giosa estimated the village could earn $300,000 the first year and up to half a million yearly after a decade.

While the village’s seasonal traffic is a factor, Giosa said the biggest pressure on downtown parking are local employees vying for the same spots as customers.

“There are issues with employee parking and employees parking in spaces that are intended for customers and visitors and restaurant-goers and so forth,” he said in a phone interview after the meeting. “So that's one of the issues we're trying to solve.”

There are two options to designate exempted residential vehicles — stickers, much like beach or railroad station permits. The other option is a “pay by plate” system where parkers enter license plate numbers into the meter consoles, which would contain a database of the vehicles of Northport residents.

If the village adopted the “pay by plate” system, it would be the first on Long Island to do so, Giosa said.

“The pay by plate is certainly the standard that would be looked at in today's technology environment,” Giosa said. “But stickers could definitely work.”

The board is asking Giosa for additional information, including whether the consoles should be rented or purchased and clarification on metering parking spaces that are not under the village’s jurisdiction.

McMullen cautioned that the proposal was in its early stages. “Who knows? Maybe the decision will be that we don't change anything,” he said.

Some proposed parking rates and time limits:

Main Street between the harbor and Woodside: Two-hour limits from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Resident: 50 cents an hour. Nonresident: $1 an hour.

Parking lots by Scudder Avenue and Union Place: E permits from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Resident: free. Nonresident: $10 a month.

Parking lots by the marina: 12-hour time limit. Resident: free. Nonresident: 50 cents an hour. Other options for the marina lots include 24- or 48-hour long-term parking starting at $5 for residents and $20 for nonresidents, and four-hour parking from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. that is free for residents and $1 an hour for nonresidents.

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