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Suffolk repeals 'twilight' beach parking fees

Suffolk County legislator Kate Browning, whose district includes

Suffolk County legislator Kate Browning, whose district includes Smith Point Park, gives the crowd the "thumbs up" sign after hearing the county executive withdrew the proposed fee. (July 9, 2012) Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Suffolk County has repealed a $4 "twilight" parking fee at two county beaches after weeks of receiving emails and phone calls from residents angered by the new fees.

The announcement was delivered by Legis. Kate Browning (D-Shirley) and Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) at a rally at Smith Point Marina in Shirley, where a crowd of more than 100 protesters had gathered to blast the new fee, which had been put in place June 23.

"We're struggling for revenue and everything's been put on the table, but the county executive heard the people and changed his mind," Schneiderman said.

Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider confirmed the repeal to Newsday.

The $4-a-car charge was put in place from 5 to 8 p.m. at Smith Point County Park in Shirley and Cupsogue Beach County Park in Westhampton Beach to help generate an estimated $90,000 for the cash-strapped county through Labor Day.

County Executive Steve Bellone's office said the short-lived fee produced $25,300 for the county from June 23 through July 8. The fee was removed effective Monday, according to county officials.

Residents complained the fee would be a burden to those who for years have strolled and relaxed along the beach during the evening hours. More than 1,000 residents signed an online petition blasting the fee.

Browning and Schneiderman were preparing to submit a measure to the legislature to repeal the fee that they initially approved by a 12-5 vote. But waiting for the bill to work its way through the legislative process would have taken too long, Browning said.

Instead, both legislators met repeatedly with Bellone until he reached his decision about two hours before the 6 p.m. rally, Browning said.

Cheers erupted from the crowd when they learned of the repeal from the legislators.

"This shows the power of the community," said Donato Sangemino of Shirley, who helped organize the rally. "We all came together and fought it, and won."

With Paul LaRocco

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