Controversy arose at the Dec. 12 Town of North Hempstead Board meeting over the creation of a left-turn lane onto Shore Road where it intersects with Main Street. The plan involves the Town of North Hempstead using its eminent domain powers to purchase the property at 310 Main Street, The Old Town Trading Post, and create 10 to 15 (or more if possible) new retail parking spots to service the lower Main Street area businesses. In order to create the left-hand turn, however, the businesses on the south side of the street will have to give up the four parking spaces directly in front of their establishments to create the drive through lane heading east up Main Street.
For two hours, concerned residents addressed the town council expressing both pro and con feelings about the proposal. The hearing was closed that evening and it is now expected that the town board will decide whether or not to proceed with the purchase and make an offer for the property at its Jan. 23 meeting.
Throughout the meeting TONH Supervisor Jon Kaiman and TONH Councilman Fred Pollack stressed two major impulses behind the proposal. One, obviously, is that additional parking nearby to businesses always helps the merchants. However, another important aspect of the plan is that it helps stem the tidal wave of development in that already overly congested part of town. As Councilman Tom Dwyer pointed out, whoever purchases the property at 310 Main Street would redevelop it, most likely maximizing what they would be allowed to build on the site, thereby exacerbating the problem.
Also noted was the fact that with an active business on the 310 Main Street site, there'll be more customers vying for the four curbside parking spots. Chamber Co-President Richard Strautman said that "seldom are four spots available."
Pollack also noted that the proposal is in response to the town's Visioning project, which determined, with the help of many residents, that the need to alleviate the congestion at the intersection of Main and Shore Road was a priority.
Kaiman then pointed out that there's just a small window of opportunity to purchase the property. Apparently, the property is currently in contract. However, the buyer is willing to flip it. But, obviously, won't wait for too long a period of time.
However, not everyone agrees with the plan. Harbor Deli owner Harry DeFeo expressed strong opposition, especially to the elimination of the four existing curbside parking spots in front of his store. He thinks that the road in front of the stores is not wide enough for three lanes and, if approved, presents a real safety issue.
While he would like the town to create the additional parking on the site (without taking away the curbside parking spots) , he believes that the lot will be used by residents who live nearby and employees, rather than customers.
DeFeo also cited a traffic study performed by the town a while ago that found that during peak times, 80 percent of vehicles in the intersection turn north down Shore Road, so a lane heading east would not be a significant improvement.
Business-wise, he thinks he'll lose some because " people don't want to walk nowadays."
However, Sid Segall feels that the merchants lose business with the current conditions at the intersection. He said while he thinks the Harbor Deli is one of the best in town, he goes out of his way, whenever possible, to avoid that part of town because of the terrible traffic backup in front of the stores and down Main Street.
Interestingly, Dr. Glen Ruben, whose Family Dentistry office in on the southeast corner of Jackson and Main, right next door to the Harbor Deli, strongly supports the new parking lot. He feels it will alleviate some of the congestion there and welcomes the additional parking for his patients.
Local realtor Heidi Spellman feels that there's plenty of parking available behind the stores on the north side of Main Street in the municipal lot. With the proposed three active traffic lanes, she believes it will turn into a "mini freeway."
There was some debate as to whether or not the lot behind the stores on the north side was sufficiently utilized. Pollack pointed out that customers shopping in stores on the south side of Main Street are reluctant to park in the lot and cross the intersection.
Responding to Mr. DeFeo's suggestion that the town just add the parking without taking the four existing spots, Councilman Angelo Ferrara said that he couldn't justify spending $1 million of taxpayer money without helping to solve a major problem for residents.
Residents in the area, while not opposed to the proposal, wanted a more concrete plan (i.e. how many spots exactly, how would the lot be monitored, what would happen to the existing house on the property).
Kaiman replied that it could take a while to develop the exact proposal and reiterated that the property needs to be purchased soon, before another business is developed on the site. Pollack added that this is just the beginning of a long process.