Written by Katie Piacentini Friday, 03 September 2010 00:00
At last week’s North Hempstead town board meeting, town officials set a date for a public hearing on a proposed plan to have the Port Washington Parking District purchase three properties, which would be turned into parking lots. The public hearing was set for September 14 at Town Hall. By setting up the public hearing, the town board set in motion the way to legally notify the public about this proposed project.
Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman told Port News that the town has been negotiating with property owners to acquire three properties that are in blighted condition. He said that the goal is turn these blighted properties into a valuable resource, which for Port Washington is additional parking for merchants and commuters.
Among the properties being considered for purchase is 1070 Port Washington Boulevard, which is also known as the “Shields Property” since Shields Hardware owns it. The Shields Property has been under scrutiny by area residents for a long time, with many people calling the old, boarded-up house an eyesore. If the town moves forward with a plan to purchase this property, it will become a merchant parking lot, providing 20 to 30 parking spots for local business owners and employees.
The other two properties that are in negotiation for this proposed parking project include 50 South Bayles Avenue and a property on Haven Avenue, both of which would be used for commuter parking. 50 South Bayles is adjacent to a commuter parking lot and if purchased for this project, it would be combined with this lot to make one larger commuter parking lot. Town officials said that this could add about 76 additional parking spots. Councilman Fred Pollack said that the property on South Bayles Avenue was not for sale up until now. The owners had planned on building something in this space, but the principal owner passed away recently, and they have decided to sell at this point in time.
The property being considered for purchase on Haven Avenue is an existing parking lot across from the train station, which has been for sale for a while, town officials said. Currently, this parking lot is not in use and it is chained off with a few “No Parking” signs. Jon Kaiman said that this lot could add about 14 commuter parking spots.
Councilman Pollack said that the Shields Property is an odd shape, sort of like a “T”. While the address is Port Washington Boulevard, part of the property borders on Main Street – it is the part between Stride Rite Shoes and Munsey Cleaners, where there is a tall fence. On the opposite side of the property, the land goes back to Ohio Avenue. If turned into a parking lot, it would be for merchant parking and would add 20 to 30 parking spots. Kaiman said that if the town moves forward with this project, the Shields Property would be improved with the vision of residents and local merchants, with the final results being a small parking lot with landscaping.
Pollack said that he does not think that turning the Shields Property into a merchant parking lot would increase traffic congestion in this area, since the hours are different for commuters and local merchants. For example, commuters get to the parking lots around 6:30 a.m. while local merchants arrive at the parking lots at the tail end of morning commute and start the day a little later. Kaiman said that currently, there are traffic problems in this area from not having enough parking spots, in that people drive slower while searching for a spot and sometimes people double park. He added that turning the Shields Property into a merchant parking lot would take about 20 cars off the road, which would help decrease traffic in this area.
Elaborating more on traffic issues in Port Washington, Pollack described two solutions. One solution is to reduce the number of cars on the road through shuttles and such, and the second solution is to provide more parking spaces. Pollack said that the town is trying to address this traffic problem by creating smaller parking lots throughout the area to accommodate everyone.
Currently, the estimated cost for this proposed project is $4,725,000. This is the cost of the total project, which includes purchase of all three of the properties, designing and building the parking lots, and landscaping. Additionally, Councilman Pollack said that the town highway department would do all of the work in-house, which saves money.
Both Kaiman and Pollack said that property owners would not see a noticeable tax increase. They explained that the town has been repaying four bonds, with a total of about $278,000 in debt service. The town is paying off two of these bonds this year, and a third bond will be paid off in 2011. According to Pollack, paying off these three bonds will leave a total of about $7,000 in debt service. Pollack said that if this parking project comes to fruition, the town would not be borrowing until 2011; so all three bonds would be paid off. Town officials estimate that the annual cost for the parking project is expected to be between $242,000 and $272,000.
While the public hearing is on September 14, the town is also in the process of setting up a separate meeting with the people living and working near the Shields Property to discuss any potential issues or concerns that they might have about this project. Additionally, Pollack said that the town really wants to get their input on the look and design of this proposed parking lot.
The town is preparing to send out a letter about the public hearing to every tax paying property in the district, Pollack said. Kaiman concurred, adding that the entire peninsula will receive a notice. Additionally, there is a letter to the editor from Kaiman and Pollack on this subject in this week’s issue.