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Study tackles downtown Huntington parking

Traffic congestion has been a problem on New

Traffic congestion has been a problem on New York Avenue in Huntington. (July 30, 2013) Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

A long-awaited study on downtown Huntington's lingering parking crunch calls for maximizing current space, buying available lots and raising meter rates, but stops short of recommending a garage be built, citing the high cost.

Business owners contend one is needed, especially since The Paramount theater opened in 2011, but residents say building a garage would spoil the area's quaintness.

"You are wasting money if you are not building a garage," Steve Soulellis, owner of the Mediterranean Snack Bar on New York Avenue, said before the $35,000 study was released by the town Monday. It suggests that any garage plan be carefully considered because the wrong structure could hurt the area and surrounding businesses.

The study also recommends that a garage, which it estimated would cost $20,000 per space, contain mixed-use, first-floor commercial space, to subsidize development cost, and consider community input, because support for and opposition to a garage was about even among residents surveyed. Among garage opponents, "concerns were based on the potential height and massing of such a structure" and how it may " 'change the character' of the village, making it more 'like Queens,' " the study said.

In addition to higher parking meter costs, the study recommends creating resident-only parking, increasing signage toward off-street lots and leasing and buying lot space. It also calls for increasing The Paramount's free shuttle service on concert nights from the Long Island Rail Road station in Huntington and adding ridership incentives.

Supervisor Frank Petrone was unavailable to comment, but said through spokesman A.J. Carter that officials are reviewing the findings and considering the next step, including possible locations and funding for a parking structure.

A public hearing is set for Aug. 13. The study, done by Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates Inc. of Manhattan, was commissioned last year and funded by a consortium that includes the town and The Paramount.

Residents and business owners say the parking issues have always existed downtown, but intensified after The Paramount, a 1,500-seat theater, replaced a smaller one.

"There's no silver bullet, no quick fix," Dominick Catoggio, who identified himself as part-owner of the venue, said Tuesday. Still, Jose Reyes, manager of Besito Mexican Restaurant on New York Avenue, favors a four-level structure as a remedy.

"The customers come late, sometimes up to 20 minutes," he said last week. "If they can't find parking they go home."

Shows at The Paramount help his business on weekdays, but not on weekends, he added. During a recent Thursday show, many concertgoers parked in surrounding lots, squeezing out local customers. The "theater brings no business here, for nobody," Soulellis said.

Resident Loretta Gross, 59, said congestion in the area has forced her to take a cab or walk downtown. She said building a garage would add traffic and urbanization. "A part of me says the new business is good," she said. "But . . . we are getting away from the quaintness."

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