While attorney Jonathan M. Stein is clearly concerned with the parking situation in the business district, as are so many other residents, merchants and officials, he’s taken his concerns a few steps further than most.
Stein, in addition to being granted speaking time in front of the board of trustees at its meeting last week, has created a Facebook page critical of the way the board operates and claiming that the board has already made a decision to double meter rates and cut allowable parking time in half.
The board took deliberate steps at the meeting to state that no decision had been made at all.
Stein, who practices in the Plaza, is also now running for office. He’s created a website on behalf of his recent decision to oppose trustee Lawrence Katz in the March 18 village election. He declared his candidacy during the first week of January.
The longtime parking problem centers on the large number of drivers who work in the village, have long term parking permits, but instead take up street spaces and four-hour lot spaces by illegally feeding the meters. Merchants strongly feel that shoppers are discouraged from coming to their stores because they have great difficulty finding spaces.
Parking permits cost $90 a quarter. Hourly rates have remained at $0.25 an hour for over 20 years.
Mayor Jean Celender began discussion on parking with a reference to Stein’s parking Plan “B,” which the this local attorney had been advertising on Facebook. “This request to be heard is about a Plan “B,” she said, before inviting Stein to speak. “But I want to state for a fact that the village has not yet formulated a Plan “A.”
Citing the abundance of information available on the Internet and its questionable accuracy, Celender continued: “I think that it’s important that we, as elected officials, set the record straight and identify what the right facts are and to try and correct misinformation about what we’re doing and what our intentions are.”
Also speaking at the meeting to emphasize their concerns about the parking problems and hopes that the village would take some kind of action were longtime businessmen Mark Wolf (Camp & Campus), Dr. Phillip Meltzer (Spectacles) and Steven Dann.
Stein opened by saying that he understood that the plaza, based on a report by parking consultant Gerard Giosa of Level G LLC, was proposing the fee doubling and meter time cuts and that the public wasn’t being properly informed.
“Perhaps we should make this report public,” he said. “Let the public look at the report…give the public a chance to review (it) and come to their own conclusions before we jump to any conclusion.”
Celender was quick to ask Stein if he had attended the public meeting on Dec. 3, when Giosa made an oral report to the board about his work. Stein said that he did not.
“That would have been a very helpful meeting (to attend),” she told Stein. “If you subscribe to our e-newsletter you’d see that the December one identified Mr. Giosa and what he was doing. That’s public information that is disseminated to about 900 contacts.”
Celender then read an excerpt from that e-letter: “This whole study is about how to make the parking more optimized for us so that we don’t have abuses…so that there is available parking for people who want to come and shop in the downtown.”
The mayor also stated that Giosa would be providing a written report of his findings to the board. “I would ask that the board move to make this report public,” Stein requested.
Deputy Mayor Ted Rosen chose to comment on Stein’s request. “I don’t understand why someone would think that report would not be public,” he said. The tradition of this village is to operate publicly.”
“If, and when, we decide to take action,” he continued, “we will come up with a plan whether it’s Plan A, H, J or whatever you want to designate it, and that will be at a public meeting. And if, and when, we formulate a change such as raising the rates or raising the time period…that will be pursuant to an amendment to our local laws which goes through a hearing process.”
Added Celender, “There’s a lot of information on our website (www.greatneckplaza.net) so we’re a very transparent board when it comes to what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.”
Trustee Pamela Marksheid agreed with Stein’s closing statement that the parking problem was critical, saying, “It is a critical issue. We want our downtown to be as vibrant as possible and we will not leave any stone unturned trying to find the best way for our merchants, our residents and visitors to have a downtown that they enjoy coming to.”