Written by Katie Piacentini Friday, 26 February 2010 00:00
Many Port Washington residents attended the recent Town of North Hempstead board meeting to urge the board to vote against removing nine metered parking spots from lower Main Street. This plan was proposed to create a turning lane from Main Street onto Shore Road, which is a congested intersection. Despite the opposition to this plan from these residents, the town board passed this ordinance. The town is also moving forward with plans to build a parking lot on the corner of Main Street and Jackson Street to create additional parking next to the area where the metered parking spots are being removed.
The Town of North Hempstead purchased the trading post building on the corner of Main Street and Jackson Street a couple of years ago in order to create a parking lot at that location. The town has stated that asbestos was removed from this building recently and it is almost ready for demolition. This parking lot will create 14 metered parking spots and the town stated that they will not take away the metered parking spots on lower Main Street until this parking lot is ready.
The new turning lane will hold five to six cars. The lane on the right, which is currently used for metered parking, will most likely be a left turn/through lane, although this has not been totally decided. Nassau County controls the timing of the traffic light signals and will need to update them for this new set-up. The parking lot should be ready this spring and the town has stated that the parking spots on Main Street will only be eliminated once Nassau County changes the signals on the traffic lights.
Harbor Deli owner Harry DeFeo created a petition against this plan, which was given to the town board although not presented at the meeting. There were 700 signatures on this petition. According to DeFeo, there are three reasons why they are opposed to this ordinance, which are safety, preservation of the look of lower Main Street and customer convenience. Out of all of these concerns, safety is the main issue for Port Washington residents who signed this petition. They believe that removing these parking spots will create a dangerous situation for pedestrians, who will be more exposed to vehicles going straight past the left turning lane.
In addition to the petition, three letters were sent to the town board prior to the February 16 meeting that showed opposition to this plan. This included a letter from the Port Washington Fire Department, a letter from the Port Washington Police Department, and a letter from a local civil engineer and traffic expert, explaining why this proposed plan is unsafe. DeFeo said this information was not presented during the town board meeting.
Councilman Fred L. Pollack has argued that this ordinance will create a safer situation for Port Washington residents, since the congested Main Street and Shore Road intersection increases traffic on Third Street, Covert and Jackson due to the detours made by drivers wanting to avoid this intersection. He has also said these stores might be losing business due to people avoiding this busy intersection.
In a statement sent to Port News, Councilman Pollack said, “The parking lot we are building will more than replace the on-street parking we are removing in order to create a turning lane. This project really benefits everyone. The flow of traffic will be improved, businesses and their customers will have more metered spots than presently exist, and families on nearby residential streets will have fewer cars racing by trying to avoid the congested intersection.”
According to a visioning plan that was developed by the Town of North Hempstead several years ago, the Main Street/Shore Road intersection was listed as one of the worst, peninsula-wide. Timing of the traffic light makes it difficult to get through – cars that are going straight on Main Street cannot get through when cars are turning left. According to Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman, the Town of North Hempstead met every so often with several Port Washington organizations, all of the mayors of the villages within Port Washington, and Councilman Pollack to discuss how to fix this intersection. As a result, the town purchased the lot on Main Street and Jackson Street to create the parking lot.
A traffic consultant who was hired by the Town of North Hempstead did a study on this intersection and the proposed plan and said that it would improve the situation. Town Supervisor Kaiman also stated that the town could change it back to the current arrangement if there are problems, because they are not altering the width of the road.
Kaiman stated that the town believes this new arrangement will be safer, because there are a lot of cars going through that intersection, which can be a dangerous situation for people getting in and out of their cars in those parking spots. Additionally, emergency vehicles will be able to pass through that area more easily, he said.
The town does not believe that this will affect customer convenience to the stores, since they are providing a parking lot across the street from the businesses. Kaiman said that by creating this parking lot, the town is “adding parking in an area that is desperate for parking.” As an alternative to building a large parking garage near Main Street, Kaiman said that they are looking at a few areas along Main Street to build smaller parking lots in order to improve merchant parking. “Hopefully, the entire community benefits,” Kaiman said.