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W. Islip office brings parking complaints

Before the new brick building housing an orthodontists' office was built on Higbie Lane in West Islip, a tired-looking deli stood on the property.

Many residents welcomed Vitagliano Orthodontics -- its handsome exterior and well-manicured landscaping, residents said, were a boost to the neighborhood.

But soon after the four-doctor practice opened in April, residents say, they began experiencing a frequent side effect of development: parking woes.

At a recent Islip Town planning board hearing, more than a dozen residents voiced outrage at the parking situation, calling it unsafe. They alleged Vitagliano employees -- there are more than 20 -- have flooded nearby streets, parking their cars for nine-hour stretches on narrow residential roads, impairing visibility for drivers, in order to save spaces for patients in the office's 29-space parking lot.

Larry Maietta, an accountant who's lived on nearby North Street for nearly 30 years, said he had to change his morning driving route because the influx of parked cars made it dangerous for him to turn onto Higbie Lane from his street.

"This is a very old part of West Islip -- a lot of the homes were built in the '20s," Maietta said. "There's no curbs, no sidewalks. These cars are now pulling up on the grass. It's all run-down. It's unfortunate."

Neither Dr. Joseph Vitagliano, who also has an office in Massapequa, nor any representative appeared at the hearing earlier this month despite receiving four certified letters from town officials asking for a meeting and advising them of the hearing.

Vitagliano did not respond to several phone calls or a visit from a Newsday reporter to the office seeking comment.

Islip Planning Commissioner Dave Genaway said his office had received "numerous complaints" and said Vitagliano's absence "speaks volumes in my opinion."

The planning board voted to reserve a finding in the case, and plans to hold another hearing on the issue.

Among the remedies, Genaway said, the town could reduce the space allowed for medical use in the 4,500-square-foot building, which would decrease the number of orthodontists allowed to work in the building.

Genaway, who said the town is investigating whether the practice is in violation of any town codes, said the board would like to take a "conservative stance" and see whether Vitagliano has "exhausted all remedies to investigate alternate parking."

Meanwhile, neighbors are reeling. Suffolk Legis. Tom Barraga, who lives in the neighborhood, spoke forcefully for the board to take corrective action. He said residents began knocking on his door -- a rare occurrence, he said -- to complain about the parking situation.

"It's a continuous problem," he said of the staff's parking practices. "If they all show up and park in the lot, they only have seven or eight spaces for their customers to park. I told the guy, 'You have to be a good neighbor.' These people have been living here for 25 or 30 years. I will not stand for this."

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