Engineering and environmental consultants retained by the Town of Oyster Bay announced their recommendations for the Hicksville parking garage last week. After nearly six months, consultants have determined that a parking garage - similar in size to the one demolished over the summer - would be the best bet. Additionally, they propose for it to be constructed in the same location the previous garage stood for nearly 40 years. A final decision by the town, however, has not yet been made.
The four-story Oyster Bay Town-owned lot, which was located at Newbridge Road and Duffy Avenue, was closed in June because of cracked structural support T-beam. Less than a month later, Supervisor John Venditto, along with the town board, made the decision to demolish the 37-year-old structure and build a new one. Since then, nearly a half dozen community meetings have been held, including one last Wednesday at Hicksville's William P. Bennett Community Center.
"Over the last six months, I cannot even begin to tell you how much community input we have received in the form of faxes, letters, emails, telephone calls and meetings," said Venditto, adding that the parking garage ranks among the top five of all issues he has faced during his 11-year tenure as supervisor.
Community meetings, said Venditto, provide an opportunity to get everyone in the same place, at the same time and hear their opinions and ideas and concerns. "You never know. Someone may come up with an idea that was overlooked and we don't want to leave any stone unturned," he said.
While testimony from the experts is critical, especially when dealing with engineering and public safety, Venditto strongly believes a great value is placed on the opinions of the people who live in the community. "I have found more often than not that the best experts are the people who live in the impacted area and the commuters who use the station," he said, adding, "We needed to get as much community input as we could and are trying as hard as we can to strike a balance and address the needs of commuters and the residents who live near there. To do so, we need to craft a solution where both sides are a little unhappy and a little happy."
During last week's meeting, experts retained by the town presented some 200 residents from Hicksville and the surrounding communities with their proposal to construct a $40 million brick-faced concrete structure - in the same location - with a 10-foot ceiling that would hold 1,400 vehicles (three more than the previous parking garage). Additionally, the proposal calls for the construction of a solid south side wall and a screened top level along with a pedestrian bridge over Duffy Avenue.
"This is a very different building than the one it is replacing," said Murray Levi, an architect for the engineering consulting firm the LiRo Group. "In every respect, it will be improved."
Residents living in the immediate vicinity of the site, however, are not convinced. While several opposed the construction of a new parking garage at the same location completely, others are urging the town to take the time and make the right decision.
"It's ugly," West Marie Street resident Sheila Dooley said of the proposed garage design. "We are not jut talking about being able to park in Hicksville but to live in Hicksville as well."
One 58-year resident, agreed, adding, "I am sick of people always wanting to dump on Hicksville. There are train stations in Syosset and Woodbury. Why not build garages over there?"
Venditto stated that the town is not in the "parking garage business" and that the MTA, not Oyster Bay, sets the schedule, making the Hicksville line one of the Long Island Rail Road's most utilized. He stated that, when considering other locations for the parking garage, the town did look into alternative sites and that those available are either too small (the current site is 3.2 acres) or have multiple owners. The town will also be looking to obtaining additional ground level parking that, if secured, could provide up to 400 additional spaces.
On the flip side, however, commuters from both Hicksville and the neighboring communities would like nothing more than to see the town build a larger, more accommodating facility - the sooner the better.
Plainview resident Jay Goldstein, who relies on the Hicksville Long Island Rail Road station to get to work, encouraged the town to move forward with the project. "It's not just 1,400 people inconvenienced. Not having the garage affects the whole town," he said, urging the town to not be "held hostage" by those residents who are opposed to the garage even though it was there even when they purchased their homes.
While commuter Judy Brenner supports a new garage she believes the town should elect to construct something more accommodating. "You are putting all this time, effort and money into something that is the same size where there are no spaces by 7:20 a.m." she said. "Why recreate something that will not be adequate in the future?"
The supervisor said he hopes to have a decision on the parking garage rendered sometime in January. "There are a thousand different opinions of what should be done ..." Venditto said. "At this point, we have all the input, ideas and suggestions that are out there and believe we have all the information we need to make an informed decision."
As of press time, demolition of the old garage is near complete; removal of the pre-exiting underground foundation should be done by January. Should the board approve the construction of a new facility, the town hopes to put the project out for bid and hire a contractor by April. Doing so would enable the new garage to be completed, weather permitting, by summer of 2010.
In the meantime, permit-holding commuters arriving before 7:30 a.m. may park at the Broadway Mall Monday through Friday and take a shuttle, which runs 5 to 7:30 a.m. and 4 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday. There are no shuttle buses on Saturdays, Sundays or holidays. Commuters planning to park after 7:30 a.m. should report directly to the designated lot behind the Sears Auto Center. Bus service is available at Sears 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 to 9 p.m.
Please note, commuter parking will not be permitted at the Broadway Mall on Christmas Eve, Wednesday, Dec. 24. Parking and shuttle bus service will be available at Sears only on Dec. 24.
In addition to the Broadway Mall and Sears parking lots, there are a number of other parking facilities in downtown Hicksville that offer parking spaces for residents with a Town of Oyster Bay Parking Permit. For a detailed list, visit www.oysterbaytown.com or call the Oyster Bay Town Department of Public Safety at 677-5350.