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Huntington changes course on downtown parking fees

Jeff Ratti, of Huntington, pays for his parking

Jeff Ratti, of Huntington, pays for his parking spot in Huntington, May 21, 2014. Credit: Johnny Milano

Town of Huntington officials are adjusting parking fees in downtown Huntington before a planned three-month checkup, after an outcry over sweeping rate changes.

At issue was the cost of parking time from the multi-space meters recently installed along Main Street and New York Avenue. The cost had been $1 an hour, up from 25 cents an hour. The town is readjusting it to 25 cents for 15 minutes, if paid in cash. It will still cost a dollar for any part of an hour with a credit card.

This week, town officials sent letters to residents and businesses who had complained to them and started a petition about the changes. The letter outlined plans to reduce some of the fees for parking downtown.

"Every customer that came in talked about it, complained about it, and other merchants . . . also discussed it and complained," Chris Binetti, general manager of Ideal Cheese and Wine Cafe, said. "It was hurting local businesses. We all thought the increase was a little absurd."

Among the changes, the minimum purchase at spaces covered by traditional meters, along downtown side streets, is being reduced to 25 cents for 30 minutes. The price had been increased from 25 cents for an hour to 50 cents for an hour with no option for partial-hour purchases. The minimum purchase at the multi-space meters with a credit card remains $1 an hour.

The meters should be reprogrammed sometime next week.

"If something makes sense that can be easily changed, you do it," Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said. "We heard from merchants, we went out there, and people's biggest argument was that they just wanted to run in and out for coffee, or to get their cleaning. We don't want to be in a situation where people are not utilizing our merchants."

The fee schedule at the Long Island Rail Road multi-space meters remains the same.

The initial parking changes were rolled out this month after a two-year effort by a consortium of businesses and business groups put together by the town with a mission of improving downtown parking. Last June, the group released a study with recommendations, including having pricing improve the availability of street parking spaces, and to encourage drivers to park in the free long-term municipal lots.

Merchants said a long-term plan is needed, and they would like to see a parking garage.

"My problem is we need more parking," said Joel Dennett, owner of Cow Over the Moon, who has been in business in town for 10 years. "Unless we get more parking, the town will be doomed."

Jack Palladino, president of the Huntington Village Business Improvement District, also said there needs to be a parking structure. "The things we're doing right now are just a bridge to a structure," he said. "It's just plain and simple there's not enough spots for the amount of business and residents that are in the village."

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