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Illegal parking at Cold Spring Harbor LIRR station leads to tickets, frustration

Dave Donovan of Huntington stands in the parking

Dave Donovan of Huntington stands in the parking lot at the Cold Spring Harbor LIRR station on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. Donovan, who works in Manhattan, estimates he's paid $700 in parking tickets over the past six months. He says he often has no option other than to illegally park when the lot is full and he's trying to catch a morning train. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Cold Spring Harbor's LIRR parking lot accounted for 40 percent of the parking tickets issued in Huntington's municipal lots in the first 10 months of the year, according to a Newsday analysis of town data.

Residents say Huntington Town has been aggressively targeting drivers using the Cold Spring Harbor lot and some have accrued hundreds, or thousands, of dollars in parking fines.

"People are losing patience with it," said Dave Donovan, a communications executive in Manhattan who calculated he racked up $700 in tickets in the past six months.

Town officials say the high rate of ticketing at Cold Spring Harbor is to be expected -- it's the one lot in town with significantly more demand for parking spaces than what is available.

"People are parking illegally," town spokesman A.J. Carter said. "People can't decide on their own what makes a legal space."

On a recent morning, cars were parked on the grass, outside the lines at the end of painted rows, and in front of "no parking" signs.

The lot has 974 spots, representing about 17 percent of parking spaces at the four Long Island Rail Road stations in the town. Huntington Station's lots and garage -- with 3,249 spaces -- accounted for 35 percent of the municipal tickets through Nov. 5.

Donovan, 43, who lives in Huntington, said he paid tickets on time, but gets new ones because he often has no option other than to park illegally when the lot is full and he's trying to catch a morning train.

"I think there's a sense among commuters that you're sort of punishing people that are going into the city to provide for their families [and] who bring that revenue back to Huntington or Cold Spring Harbor," he said.

Town Public Safety director Kenneth Lindahl said the ticketing is not revenue-driven.

"There's no policy directive to crack down or ticket," he said. "But there is illegal parking and because illegal parking tends to affect potential safety, there has been enforcement."

Parking tickets at all of Huntington's municipal lots generated $962,000 in 2013, and $677,000 in the first 10 months of this year.Since 2008, Huntington has added 89 spots at Cold Spring Harbor, officials said, but noted they can't expand further because the lot is surrounded by protected land.

Town officials said the frustrated drivers could avoid the tickets by parking at Huntington Station's LIRR station.

But Donovan and other commuters, who pay for annual parking passes, said they don't want to leave their cars in Huntington Station and worry about the possibility of crime, or add 20 to 30 minutes to their travel time.

Lindahl said all town lots are patrolled and no major crimes have occurred at the Huntington Station parking areas since his office started tracking that data in 2012.

Jade Schaeffer, 30, of Huntington, said she recently spent $3,400 to have a boot removed from her car after getting nine tickets in Cold Spring Harbor that she didn't pay. She should have paid them, she said, but argued her own errors don't overshadow the issue.

"I want the town to admit that there's a parking problem at Cold Spring Harbor," Schaeffer said.

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