Business owners in downtown Bay Shore are bracing for an impending parking meter plan they say will be detrimental to the hamlet's growth - and they aren't going down without a fight.
Partners at the law firm of Siben & Siben on Main Street sent out more than 100 letters and petitions asking fellow merchants to sign on in protest of the Town of Islip's plan to manage parking by adding about 53 meters along several blocks of Main Street, in some municipal lots, and at the Long Island Rail Road Station. The installation will cost the town approximately $750,000.
Andrew Siben said they have received more than 250 signatures so far.
"They're still pouring in," Siben said. "Surely they'll have to weigh it very carefully."
Proceeds from the meters will go toward the upkeep of the town's municipal parking lots, according to Councilman John C. Cochrane Jr. He said the town, which is facing an $11.3 million deficit, calculated at the end of last year, cannot afford these costs.
Although 60 percent of overall parking spaces in downtown Bay Shore will remain without meters, Alan Sobel, 70 - the owner of Mars Auto Parts, which was started by his father Walter Sobel in 1948 - believes problems will arise after the meters are put in.
He collected nearly 100 signatures on the petitions he placed on the counter of his business.
"I'm concerned that people are going to get tickets if the meter runs out and that'll turn them off. Nobody is going to complain about it until they get a ticket," he said.
In January, the Village of Patchogue installed meters in 40 percent of its downtown area, similar to Bay Shore's plan, to help free up parking spaces and help pay for future parking projects.
"It's a work in progress and they'll have to realize it isn't an easy go in the beginning," said Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri. "But over time, I think it will work very well for the both of us."
Cochrane said the meters will not hurt businesses and said they will provide a much-needed turnover of customer parking. He has attended multiple meetings with local residents and shopowners and listened to their concerns, but said the petitions will not stop the project from moving forward.
Charles Beitch - vice president of Suffolk Printing on Main Street, which his family started 43 years ago - said he supports the parking meters, as does Brittany Bispo, 29, the office manager at Bouler Pfluger Architects. Bispo said she recently received a $125 ticket for staying too long in a 2-hour parking zone.
"I would rather pay for the parking than these expensive tickets," Bispo said.
The timeline for the project - which was to begin on Memorial Day - may be delayed until the fall as the town awaits the final step: state approval since Main Street - also known as Montauk Highway - is a state road.
"This is a major decision that may well affect members of the business community," Siben said. "And before the town undertakes to engage in this major expense we wanted to educated everyone so they're fully aware about what's going on."