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Stewart Manor school staff opposes new parking fees

Parents and students demonstrate against a plan to

Parents and students demonstrate against a plan to have teachers pay for $50 monthly parking passes at Stewart Manor Middle School. (Aug. 30, 2013) Credit: Johnny Milano

Teachers and staff at Stewart Manor Elementary School are balking at a new $50-per-month fee for parking spaces they say they have used for free for decades.

Stewart Manor Village, which owns the diagonal parking spaces, authorized the fee to be imposed during the school year. School officials and parents said the village is unfairly targeting the spaces and creating unintended consequences, such as increased parking on streets in neighboring New Hyde Park.

The school converted a patch of playground blacktop into a temporary parking lot, but it reduces recreational space for students. "It's just a sad situation," said Al Harper, superintendent of Elmont schools.

School officials plan to address the village at a Stewart Manor village meeting tomorrow, Principal Hope Kranidis said. Stewart Manor Mayor Gerard Tangredi did not respond to requests for comment.

"What we should do is take a close look at the concerns of the residents," said Michael Onorato, a trustee who voted against the change.

According to minutes of the August board meeting at which the parking fee resolution was authorized in a 3-2 vote, Tangredi described a need to "explore non-taxing revenue" to close the village's budget gaps.

The fee applies to 38 parking spots adjacent to Stewart Manor Elementary, south of Stewart Avenue on Dover Parkway North, school officials said. It is to be enforced school days from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., according to the law.

For school staff members who use the spots regularly, the fee could total as much as $500 for the school year.

"It's really a hardship for all the professionals," Kranidis said. "People who park on that roadway are the custodians, the clerks, the cafeteria workers -- to be asking people to purchase a permit on a monthly basis for $50, it really is a hardship for a number of the people there."

A group of parents and teachers worried about students' safety with vehicles now parking on the blacktop that had been a playground and is now topped with stop signs and yellow lines marking parking spaces. Some parents feared the loss of recess, especially if early morning rain leaves the school fields wet.

Wet grass "is not really the prime area for children to play, especially in the morning," Harper said.

Kayla Brodman, 9, stood on the new parking area and fretted about the loss of four square, the popular children's game played on a hard surface.

Residents and village officials in New Hyde Park said they are concerned about spillover into their community.

New Hyde Park deputy mayor Lawrence Montreuil suggested Stewart Manor officials collaborate on finding different ways to save revenue. Otherwise, both the village and school personnel will lose, he said.

An alternative, such as building a new parking lot on school grounds, "would come at a cost to the taxpayers of the school district, the same taxpayers who would benefit from the parking services."

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