The crackdown begins.
Northport officials are in the midst of revising parking and enforcing restrictions on and around Main Street with the goal of easing congestion in the popular harborfront downtown.
“For years we’ve been receiving complaints, whether it’s from residents or business owners,” said village trustee Jerry Maline, who led the recent effort to ease the pain of parking downtown. “As an entire board, we’re thinking at some point we have to do something.”
Some changes will be undertaken on a trial basis, while others — including a crackdown on those who exceed two-hour parking limits — are already underway.
Village officials will discuss and may vote Tuesday on changes to be tried on a short-term basis to determine if they help alleviate chronic parking problems on Main Street.
“We have competing interests in parking,” Maline said. “We have residents who live around Main Street and Scudder [Avenue]. They want long-term parking. We have boaters who want long-term parking. We have business owners who want quick turnover. We have village residents who want parking so they can shop on Main Street. We’re trying to . . . balance them out.”
Changes to be tested include converting four two-hour metered spots on Main Street into 20-minute spots, as well as extended hours and free parking in the village’s three municipal lots downtown.
The goal is to get drivers seeking long-term parking off Main Street with its two-hour metered limit and into the lots that would allow for 24-hour parking.
“There’s more people visiting the village,” Mayor George Doll said. “It’s become a popular place. Everyone complains about parking, but when it really gets down to it, if we did not have a parking problem, the businesses would be hurting.”
Northport police announced the crackdown on two-hour parking violations on June 1. Chief Bill Ricca said the effort is in response to complaints from downtown business owners, who said people would repeatedly feed the meters instead of moving their cars, which limited customer turnover.
“Very quickly, we saw an increase in turnover on the streets,” Police Chief Bill Ricca said of the stepped-up enforcement.
Northport officials also announced a parking amnesty that will be in effect from Sept. 1 to Oct. 1, offering drivers a 40 percent reduction on amounts due from parking violations that were issued from Jan. 1, 2010 to Jan. 1, 2017.
But officials said they can only do so much about parking problems as Northport continues to draw tourists, shoppers and boaters. Eventually they may have to consider alternatives, perhaps even a garage, Maline said.
“There’s a limited amount of spots — it’s not enough,” he said. “We are trying to decide: Are we at the point where we have to find a location where we could find more parking? And, if we do that, is that going to help or is it an unnecessary expense?”
Parking downtown in Northport by the numbers:
601 — Total number of spots downtown
404 — Number of spots in parking lots
197 — Number of street parking spots