There was much discussion at Tuesday’s board meeting on whether to raise the cost of parking permits in the Town of Oyster Bay’s commuter lots, and if so, by how much. Someone who generally doesn’t speak at meetings weighed in, too — James Altadonna Jr., the town clerk.
Saying he commuted to Manhattan for 20 years by way of the Long Island Rail Road, Altadonna asked that the fees remain the same, that a committee made up of commuters be formed and that an online survey be created to address the needs of commuters.
“At present, my office issues approximately 38,100 parking permits for approximately 9,200 parking spaces,” Altadonna said. “All of our commuters already pay town taxes. To single out commuters and raise the fee for a service that we cannot fully provide or improve on due to the lack of parking spaces and lack of available land to create new parking spaces is not only an insult, it’s wrong.”
The lack of parking leads most commuters to leave “at least a half hour to 45 minutes prior to their scheduled train time just to find a parking space,” Altadonna said. The round-trip commute to Manhattan can take several hours, and then they have an eight- to 10-hour workday, he said. “Commuting is a necessity.”
Although Supervisor Joseph Saladino thanked Altadonna for his input, there was no discussion or consideration of his suggestions.
“We already had a hearing and listened to the public, and I’ve read a long list of emails or spoken to people directly,” Saladino said. “The increase would cost commuters only 25 cents a day to leave their car all day in the parking lot. No one has a problem with paying a quarter a day. If we raise the permit to $50, it would cost them 20 cents a day. This is a sharing of responsibilities.”
The town estimates the cost of maintenance of the lots at $8 million per year. Saladino and trustees say that an increase in the parking permit fee would shift some of the responsibility from homeowners to commuters to pay for the maintenance. This is what other municipalities are doing, Saladino said.
“The issue we hear about is not the cost, it is the availability,” he said. “We are looking for ways to increase spots. Hicksville’s train station is getting 900 new spots that the [Metropolitan Transportation Authority] is paying for.”
And the increase would still be less than what other commuters are paying, Saladino reasoned. “Long Beach commuters pay $250, North Hempstead pays $240, the Town of Huntington pays $75 and some villages pay $300,” he said. “This will shift the burden, so property owners won’t have to foot the bill.”
A town committee is being formed to look for ways to tackle the need for additional parking spaces.
It was suggested by Oyster Bay finance director Robert Darienzo that if expenses stay the same and parking fees are raised, taxes may come down in 2019.
Saladino and Councilwoman Michele Johnson wanted a vote taken at the meeting to finalize the increase, but Councilwoman Rebecca Alesia and Councilman Lou Imbroto said they believed more discussion was needed. They asked that a decision not be made until the next meeting, which is in the evening on Feb. 27. These meetings traditionally draw more residents.
Councilman Tony Macagnone agreed. “We are talking about raising it by 500 percent, so we should discuss this longer,” he said. “There’s also the question of allowing electric cars. There are 450 hybrid cars right now. We need more research.”
Altadonna said that technology may help to solve the problem of limited parking in the future. “Driverless cars would drop you off and pick you up,” he said. “I haven’t heard about the possibility of building an additional parking facility to solve the lack of parking spaces. We are all trying to reduce the town debt.”
Discussion will continue on Feb. 27 at 7 p.m.