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Locust Valley merchants complain about parking

Business owners have complained that LIRR commuters are

Business owners have complained that LIRR commuters are parking in spots used by store employees and customers instead of the designated LIRR parking spots to avoid purchasing the required $35 permit in Locust Valley. (Aug. 8, 2013) Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Town of Oyster Bay officials have agreed to reconsider parking regulations to give customers of some Locust Valley merchants better access to parking spots some say are now being monopolized by commuters.

Three members of the Locust Valley Chamber of Commerce met with town officials Monday to address merchants' complaints that early-morning commuters dominate the spaces in two free lots between Forest Avenue and the Locust Valley Long Island Rail Road station.

Chamber members agreed to survey other area business owners and propose a solution at the Sept. 17 town board meeting. Town officials will work to implement the proposal if it is "within reason," said town spokesman Brian Devine.

Monday's meeting was among several discussions held since March regarding a problem the merchants say hinders their businesses by forcing employees and customers to look elsewhere for parking.

"Rather than pay $35 for a permit, commuters park in the free spaces for 12 hours; meanwhile, my customers can't find a spot," said Asgeir Asgeirsson, owner of the G. Willikers novelty and gift store at 22 Forest Ave.

Merchants said the parking problem has been compounded by the closure of West Shore Road in Mill Neck because of damage from superstorm Sandy.

The closure forced Bayville and Centre Island residents to travel to Locust Valley to catch the train, and though the road reopened in June, Asgeirsson believes many of the commuters still use the local lots.

When chamber members raised the issue at a town board meeting last month, Supervisor John Venditto said the town would look into the matter and find a solution.

The town must consider the potential impact of changing signage on residents, commuters and patrons before making a decision, Devine said.

Merchants say changes can't come soon enough.

"I've had to run outside to give customers something through their car window because they couldn't park," said Kaye Weninger, manager of J. McLaughlin clothing store at 15 Forest Ave. "We just need help."

Weninger said they'd also like police to enforce regulations. Commuters either park in the lot before the designated 7 a.m. time, or they park in spots on Forest Avenue that are restricted to two hours, without consequences, she said.

John Johnsen, a Nassau police 2nd Precinct deputy inspector, said police would look into the matter.

LIRR commuter Ed Lanning, a Bayville resident, said he has parked in the free lots since Sandy and has caught a 6 a.m. train each morning without a problem. Lanning, 53, said restricting the lots is "elitist" and discriminates against those from outside the area.

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