By Mark Wolf
After more than five years of my presenting data to the Village of Great Neck Plaza, the village finally decided to address the problems of parking abuse, especially in the Gussack Plaza outdoor lot, which is behind my store, Camp & Campus. I have been in my present location since March 2005 after 50 years on Bond Street. On a daily basis, I observed the abuse. Employees and some merchants would park in the lot for the four-hour limit from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then move their cars to a metered spot in the garage across the street for two hours, which brought them to 3 p.m. or later, when the garage was free. These people could have purchased a permit to park in the garage all day. However, $90 dollars for three months was more expensive (although very reasonable) than $1 in the lot and 50 cents in the garage. Sometimes, they fed the meter and stayed for eight hours, especially if they saw that the tires were not being chalked that day.
With the change in the parking charge from 25 cents per hour to 25 cents for 30 minutes, this is no longer the case. Also, and most importantly, the PROBLEM IS SOLVED by the fact that the garage is no longer free after 3 p.m., but 5 p.m. This would require the abusers to address their cars between 3 and 4 p.m. if they work until 6 p.m., which is when most stores close, except for the restaurants, in town. Between the additional cost and the need to attend to their cars an additional time, this would be enough incentive for them to get a permit and end the abuse in the lot.
Every parking spot used by an employee is one less spot available to customers. Each spot occupied by a consumer turns over at least three to six times a day. The lot is the busiest between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Customers circle continuously hoping to park in a vacating spot. The abusers are taking up parking spaces during this period of time.
However, The Great Neck Plaza Board of Trustees is creating as many problems as they are solving in regards to the parking problems in the Great Neck Plaza, the main shopping area for the entire Great Neck peninsula.
I personally did surveys of the parking abuse in the lot. These surveys were presented to Mayor Jean Celender and other village employees. I went around the lot 3 times during the day: 10 to 11 a.m., 1 to 2 p.m. and 3 to 4 p.m.; very often for seven consecutive days. I wrote down the spot number and the license plate of every car. I was able to identify the cars that were there multiple times a week and for more hours than they should have been because they were feeding the meters.
The village hired a parking consultant to evaluate the parking problems at a cost of $3,500 to the taxpayers. The only need for having this consultant was so that the village could point to the fact that the changes were recommended by a CONSULTANT, thereby reducing the validity of objections. The consultant spent THREE HOURS between about 11 and 2 on two consecutive Thursdays to form all his conclusions. He did not see parking patterns earlier in the morning and after 3 p.m. He was not here on the weekends. Saturday is not a problem at all; but Sunday is actually the worst day of the week for abuse and is not dealt with nor solved by the changes to take into effect this week. The consultant identified the same problems that I had identified and reported to the village for years; but his conclusions and suggestions did not consider all of their ramifications. Common sense alone dictated what had to be done.
The actions previously mentioned should solve the problems caused by these inconsiderate individuals. But the village has gone beyond that and thereby made it more difficult for some shoppers to patronize Great Neck stores and restaurants. The consultant said that the average shopper spends about 1½ hours in the village. That means that some could spend only 20 minutes, but others could spend 2½ or 3½ hours. If a customer comes into town and wants to have lunch and then go shopping at multiple stores, that can take more than two hours. The number of times over the last 50 years that a customer has said to me “I am in a hurry. My meter is about to expire” is easily in the thousands.
Sixty-six of 95 parking spaces are being converted to a two-hour parking limit. This is unnecessary because the person who only needs an hour is not staying longer anyway.
What happens when the shopper who needs the extra time arrives at the lot and all of the 29 four-hour spaces are occupied? She parks in a two-hour space. In two hours, she might just leave town. She might feed the meter, thereby risking a summons, or she might move the car to another two-hour space. She might move to a four-hour space, thereby giving her a potential six-hour stay. If she could do this, then the abusers could do this also. What is the solution? And what risk of a summons is she taking? Let us just chase away the customers. This was not the intent of the changes.
Supposedly, the changes were meant to make it easier for shoppers to park. This is not the case. The lot is being cleared simply by the change of the garage meters from 3 to 5 p.m. and the reduction in the number of those meters from 24 to 12. I have visions of many more customer complaints and, in many cases, of customers not coming back after they receive a summons for staying in a store or restaurant beyond their allotted time.
We have all been looking forward to the opening of Muse Paint Bar in the former Bruce’s location. It is already very successful and has brought some new faces to the street and my store. Yesterday, four women carrying their canvases came into Camp & Campus, looked around and indicated that they would be back. While writing this, I walked over to Muse Paint Bar and asked how long one of his events/parties lasts. The answer was 2½ hours just for the paint time. The two-hour meter does not work for this new Great Neck business.
How about seeing the effects of the change in the garage hours and the change in the fees before changing the parking lot meter limits. That should be enough to get the offending people to buy parking permits.
I mentioned the weekends. The garages are free on the weekends. The Gussack lot is often almost empty of cars with permits on Saturday. Why? The abusers park in the garage. Why pay when it’s free across the street. But, Sunday is a different story. The lot is also free. Therefore, many people who normally park in the garage with permits become lazy and park in the lot. On most Sundays, I have seen up to 14 cars with permits in the lot all day. Those, in addition to people who have abused the lot during the week, can bring the total number of cars that do not belong in the lot to 20 cars: 20 of 95. RIDICULOUS.
Remember that in Great Neck, Sunday is what Saturday used to be for the previous 50 years. Also, on Sundays, I have seen as many as 12 cars with permits on Middle Neck Road from Cuttermill Road to Cedar Drive. Plus, the cars of LIRR commuters are on the streets and in the lots, thereby taking up parking spaces in the business district all day.
Another problem is the Maple Drive Garage. It has had four-hour meters on the first floor, which are being changed to two-hour meters until 5 p.m. instead of the original 3 p.m.
There are several negative impacts of this change. The parking lot on Maple Drive behind the Squire Theater and the Gold Coast Arts Center and across from the Maple Drive Garage is going to be closed for renovation for months. A two-hour limit clearly is not enough time to attend a movie matinée. People attend the movies from all over and we would like them to become patrons of the stores and restaurants.
Also, we should be promoting the employment of our high school students. I have had students who start work between 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. and work until 6 p.m. I have always recommended that they park in the Maple Drive Garage at a meter. If they arrived after 3 p.m., they parked anywhere in the garage. Now that’s impossible. Either a four-hour meter or the 3 p.m. limit or both would be workable.
After years of my complaining to the village and documenting the problems of parking abuse by employees in the Gussack Lot, I would have preferred that they had done nothing than the changes that they are putting into effect.