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Letter: ‘Building Parking Garage at LIRR Station Would Be a Mistake’

(Ed’s note: The following letter was sent to the TONH Board and printed here at the writer’s request.)

Building a parking garage at the railroad station in Port Washington would be a mistake for at least three reasons:

Safety: It is obvious that a parking garage would be less safe than the current parking lot. While some of the safety issues would impact commuters, the brunt of the safety problems would be borne by the Port Washington residents who use the station at the quiet times – late in the evening and on weekends. These users include our seniors going to see a Broadway show, families with kids watching a game at Citi Field and young people enjoying a night out in New York City. Right now they come back to a wide-open, easily observed parking lot. It would be very different coming back to a deserted, enclosed garage. Perhaps the safety problems could be mitigated to some extent, but security would cost money, which is not something we have in abundance right now.

Traffic: I have been to the library to review the traffic study. It contains an impressive amount of data to tell us what we already know – that traffic is a problem in Port and that traffic would increase with the opening of a parking garage. The study advocates the modification of certain lights and intersections to mitigate this problem. However, volume is the main issue and this could only be exacerbated by the existence of a garage.

Economics: As we calculate the cost of the garage, we need to consider ongoing maintenance and security costs as well as construction costs. The real cost of a garage over time clearly would exceed $13 million. Port Washington would have to bear these costs through a combination of increased parking fees and increased taxes at a time when government budgets at all levels are becoming increasingly strained due to increases in government expenditures and shrinking tax receipts. This fiscal pressure is likely to persist for many years and the impact on local governments and taxpayers will be severe. Look no further than the statement from State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli late last month in which he noted that decreases in the asset value of the state Common Retirement Fund would require local governments to increase their employee pension payments from 7.5 percent to 11percent of payroll. Look at how hard the Port Washington School Board had to work this year to propose a budget that strives to maintain the educational quality of our schools without unduly increasing the burden on taxpayers. As fiscal pressures increase in the coming years, we will have to make tough choices. It will be difficult enough to find adequate resources even if we do not build a garage. Diverting $13 million plus to a parking garage would make it that much more difficult to maintain adequate funding for our school system, our library, our police and fire departments and other vital government services.

There is no denying the fact that parking is tight in Port Washington during weekdays. As a community, we can find solutions to this problem other than a parking garage. Let’s encourage more Port residents to walk to the station and to car pool. Let’s look into shuttles and other public transport.

President Obama has set a new course in Washington, one that has us exploring more environmentally friendly and less costly solutions to some of our nation’s problems. I challenge you to follow the President’s lead: help us work towards a solution to the parking problem that is more environmentally friendly, less costly and less dangerous than a parking garage.

Rick Grove