Much like the public pay phone and the incandescent light bulb, paying 25 cents an hour to park at the meters or in the lots in Great Neck Plaza seems to be on its way out.
Seemingly on its way in is the institution of parking charges at those meters on Sundays for the first time.
Last week’s Plaza board of trustees meeting featured a long discussion between the mayor and the trustees on what changes they’d like to implement to help alleviate the long ongoing abuse of the downtown’s meters and to support their continued efforts to energize the business district.
A resolution to increase the hourly rate to 50 cents an hour hasn’t been officially introduced yet, but the board did vote to hold a public hearing on the change and other possible parking modifications at its August 5th meeting.
Also headed toward eventual approval is the requirement that motorists pay for parking on Sunday. Merchants have complained that there are no spots for Sunday shoppers because so many cars are parking all day for free and using the LIRR to spend the day in the city.
But there are still many details regarding the Plaza’s parking problems that must be fine-tuned before they’re presented to the public and voted on by the board.
In speaking about increasing the hourly rate to 50 cents an hour, Mayor Jean Celender said, “I think that now it’s kind of a consensus that it’s time. We haven’t done it in many (over 20) years.”
“Basically, the increased rate is to help encourage more turnover,” she explained, in referring to some of the recommendations and findings made by Level G Parking Associates in its recent report, commissioned by the Plaza.
“There’s a perception that when they (shoppers) come here they won’t find a spot,” Celender added, in promoting the meter rise. “Sometimes that perception is reality. If it (the perception) changes and they’re able to find it (a spot), then it’s going to be a good benefit and we’ll get more patrons into the lots.”
“I’m not in favor of paying for meters all day on Sunday,” said trustee Pam Marksheid. “I understand that people take advantage. I’d like to find a compromise.”
The subsequent conversation led to a favoring of having the meters in effect from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays and the parking garages at Gussack Plaza and Maple Drive free all day.
Celender also discussed the meter abuse difficulties involving the four-hour muni-meter 99-space lot across from Village Hall. She suggested that 79 of the spaces be reduced to a two-hour limit to encourage more shopper turnover.
The mayor’s suggestion that free parking after 3 p.m. in the garages be changed to 5 p.m. to further discourage drivers from abusing the meter system, also found acceptance.
No changes were proposed for Middle Neck Road’s meters, where the time limit would remain at two hours. The Grace Avenue lot’s 122 spaces and the four-hour limit would also go unchanged, at the mayor’s suggestion.
Celender, who has always maintained that any parking changes be made in “baby steps,” said of the possible modifications to the Gussack lot, ”See how this one works first. Then we can implement changes down the line.”
Deputy Mayor Ted Rosen also voiced caution about making changes. “I’m willing to go along with some of these changes even though I’ve always been against raising the rates,” he said.
“I’m still not in favor of raising the rates because I know many downtown areas are free,” he added. “I’m keeping an open mind to see if it works…I think that whatever we do should be on a temporary basis…we have to come back and revisit it to see if it’s achieving some of the goals that we’re trying to achieve.”
Another important issue still to be worked on is in regard to parking permits. The number of permit spaces that can be made available, their pricing, and exactly where to place those spaces within each garage, have to be considered before formal proposals can be made.
A goal of the parking meter changes and modifications is to make purchasing permits more attractive to those who abuse the meter system. The question of how to provide spaces for an increased number of permit holders must be answered.
“We only have so much real estate,” Celender commented when that topic was discussed.
Also, at the meeting, the board authorized the mayor to enter into an agreement with the state’s Environmental Facilities Corporation to move forward with the planned renovation of the Maple Drive lot using permeable pavement that will greatly decrease the water runoff onto Maple and Middle Neck.
The project, funded by a $675,000 grant, would be started in the fall, pending state approval, but would obviously have an impact on parking availability in the village during the construction.