Residents say ‘Enough is enough’ at Bay Shore Chamber of Commerce meeting

Opposition toward long-standing Bay Shore parking meter system

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When you slide quarters into a parking meter in Bay Shore, are you aware that the hamlet harbors the only parking meters within the Town of Islip? Bay Shore residents and business owners are.

Originally a pilot program, the parking meter system was implemented in Bay Shore in 2016, and no other hamlet within Islip Town has adopted the program. At the January 30 Bay Shore Chamber of Commerce meeting held at the Bay Shore-Brightwaters Library, residents of Bay Shore and business owners in the downtown area voiced their desire to have free parking stickers for all residents, expressed uncertainty about whether the money paid into meters directly benefits Bay Shore, and the fact that the burden of meters is placed entirely on their shoulders.

Prior to the implementation of meters, people were continuously parking in Bay Shore lots before departing from the nearby Fire Island Ferry Terminal or busy LIRR station. Cars were often deserted for days at a time, taking away parking spots intended for diners and shoppers. As the bustling downtown area continues to grow and thrive, the meter system aims to mitigate parking.

“When I opened up the Nutty Irishman on Main Street in 2003, there were 3, maybe 4 restaurants. Currently, we have 31 sit down restaurants and bars on Main Street open, on top of 6 other coffee shops, pastry places, etc. So the town is booming.” explained Michael McElwee, who serves on the Board of the Bay Shore Chamber of Commerce. “Every booming downtown on Long Island right now has parking meters. It is a way of managing parking, and I think Bay Shore should be very proud of the fact that it is booming.”

While residents at the meeting were able to understand the merits of a parking mitigation system, attendees expressed they believe that free parking passes or stickers for Bay Shore /Brightwaters residents is a just necessity.

President of the Chamber of Commerce Donna Perricone shared that she contacted the Town of Islip months ago about implementing stickers for free parking for residents, to no avail. Michael McElwee, who was sworn into office as Councilman of the Town Board on January 4, explained the difficulty of achieving free parking passes for all residents due to the way the program is written. Residents that currently live in the parking district, located along Main Street downtown and near Maple Avenue, are eligible to receive free parking passes.

Attendees of the chamber meeting voiced their desire to expand the zone of eligibility to include the entirety of Bay Shore, so that they do not have to pay to park as paying customers visiting businesses in their hometown. Perricone pointed out that other areas like Farmingdale and Port Jefferson, which are considered villages, provide free parking stickers for the vehicles of their residents when they park at a meter. Michael McElwee explained that villages have much more freedom in regard to changing local laws compared to Townships.

Still, Perricone emphasized her belief that Bay Shore should not have to endure the burden of the meters alone.

“This was a pilot program, all the other communities were supposed to get the meters, too,” pleaded Perricone. “No one would take the meters. Only Bay Shore has the meters. We have been kind about this, but enough is enough.”

Owners of local businesses in downtown Bay Shore also voiced their concerns at the meeting.

Gina Russo, who has owned multiple businesses in downtown Bay Shore for the past 25 years, including Milk and Sugar Cafe and the Victorian Room, shared that she has acquired $7,300 worth of parking tickets in the back of her restaurant. Still, in order to not lose business, she gives quarters to her guests to be used on the parking meters.

“I have a bucket of quarters, because either I lose the party, because they do not want to have their elder guests go out to meters, or I have to give quarters to my guests, or my staff has to carry things in to and from,” explained Russo.

Frank Boulton, owner of the Boulton Center for the Performing Arts, has had similar experiences.

“Orleans, a top ten hits national band, they said, ‘We have to go out where, and park where?,’” shared Boulton. “We had to give them quarters, and they had to run out. It is a problem,” Boulton said.

Following the Chamber of Commerce meeting, a spokesperson of the Town of Islip addressed the requests for free parking passes to be distributed to Bay Shore/Brightwaters residents.

“Residency based restrictions on use of a roadway have been found unlawful by the New York State Court of Appeals,” the emailed response reads. “Islip Town’s authority to enact local legislation imposing fees for parking on public highways is defined exclusively by the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law.”

According to the statute, local authorities within the town may provide for the installation, operation, maintenance, policing and supervision of parking meters, establish parking time limits at such meters, designate hours of operation of such meters, and fix and require the payment of a fee applicable to parking where such meters are in operation.

The town board of any town may exercise these powers on behalf and at the expense of a public parking district with respect to highways outside of villages but within such public parking district, in which event the fees from such parking meters shall belong to such district, and the cost of operation and maintenance thereof shall thereafter be borne by such public parking district.”

The town also referenced a Court of Appeals case that challenged a city ordinance that allowed reduced parking fees for city residents. In that case, the Court held the subject State statute does not allow for the distinction between residents and nonresidents for purposes of regulating parking. Therefore, parking restrictions should be applied to “persons generally.” Meaning, the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law does not permit towns to enact parking program that provides preferred status to residents of the community on public roadways