A $3.2 million renovation of the largest parking lot in downtown Oyster Bay was finished this month after years of delays, improving drainage at the site known as Firemen's Field while providing a facelift for the former eyesore property.
Town officials said the project, funded with federal pandemic recovery money, included adding a system for managing stormwater runoff that had plagued the location adjacent to the Oyster Bay Long Island Rail Road station.
The lot's name comes from an arch on the property that local fire departments use to train for tournaments where they test their skills.
Some town residents recently expressed hope that the lot, which has 245 paved spaces, may help alleviate parking congestion closer to the hamlet's downtown stores.
Betsy Klipera, 69, a longtime Oyster Bay resident, said parking near downtown “has been a problem forever” and came to a Nov. 14 town hall meeting armed with a petition of around 400 signatures calling for change.
The push centers on requiring town employees to use Firemen's Field instead of the few dozen spots that are reserved for them closer to Oyster Bay Town Hall and downtown stores, freeing up spaces for the public.
The lot is about a five-minute walk to Town Hall.
“For years, citizens have complained to town officials about the parking spaces reserved for Town of Oyster Bay employees,” the petition said. “These reserved spots have prevented people from conveniently shopping in the stores, dining in the restaurants, and generally enjoying the downtown area.”
Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino said at the Nov. 14 meeting that a plan is being created to have some employees park at Firemen’s Field instead of in reserved spots around Town Hall and that it will be put in place by year's end.
“I’m happy to give up my spot and give it to the community,” Saladino added.
Disagreements over the site's use have lasted for years.
In 2011, community groups and the town had agreed on elements for an overhaul of the 3½-acre town parcel then planned for 2013.
Back then, proposals to make the property more of a community asset already had stalled for nearly four decades because of disagreement over what to do with the property. However, a recent influx of federal funding pushed the project over the finish line, town spokeswoman Marta Kane said.
Colin Bell, deputy commissioner of the town’s environmental resources department, said a design phase for the project began in 2021 after federal funding was secured.
The location now has new overhead lighting and uses green infrastructure that includes trees to manage stormwater runoff and limit pollution going into the nearby bay.
Stormwater runoff used to travel from the lot and nearby streets into a pipe that dumped water into Oyster Bay Harbor, Saladino said in an interview.
He said now runoff is rerouted into swales — areas meant to absorb water — that use native plants designed to help filter out contaminants.