Anyone who travels on Old Country Road in Westbury can attest to the growing congestion that has occurred over the years. For many, the increase in traffic brings minor inconvenience, or a longer commute. For the residents of Albany Ave., approximately 12 of whom attended the Village Board of Trustees meeting Dec. 2, commercial congestion is causing serious quality of life concerns.
Established businesses that may have outgrown their properties, such as the Majestic Diner and Don Juan Restaurant, in addition to the newly built, sprawling Source Mall, have all contributed to parking problems on residential streets throughout Westbury. The proposed plan to develop the 172-acre site of the old Roosevelt Raceway, immediately south of the Village of Westbury and Carle Place, will more than likely exacerbate the situation.
"We have been hit hard by commercial traffic," Albany Ave. resident Maureen Hutcheon told trustees. "There are so many who park on our street who don't belong. A large percentage are employees of surrounding businesses who are instructed to park on our streets instead of in the parking lots. When they park, they are not here for half an hour, they are here for a nine or ten hour shift."
Another disgruntled resident added, "Everyone has put thousands of dollars into their homes, we take care of our property, we take care of our lawns. Why do we have to say to our neighbors, 'Do me a favor? Park in front of my house while I go to the store, so I'll have a spot when I come back'?"
Although Mayor Ernest Strada assured the residents of Albany Ave. he would aid them in any way he could, he admitted that much of the problem lies in causes outside his jurisdiction. "Westbury has changed so much over the years that we haven't really been able to move with it," said Strada. He informed residents that the village line ends at the southerly side of Old Country Rd., "so whatever happens on that side of the road, we have no control over."
The Majestic Diner was isolated as the leading cause of parking woes on Albany Ave., although residents did cite other businesses, including the Source Mall, as contributors to the problem. When approached, Steve Tsiolis, the diner's owner since 1985, alluded to a long-standing feud between the diner and its neighbors. He recounted cases in which residents removed license plates and slashed tires on his wait staff's cars. "These people who commute to work, they have to make a living," he said.
Tsiolis added that, although he instructs his employees to park on the street rather than in his parking lot, he does try to accommodate his neighbors' wishes. "If someone calls and complains that a car is blocking, I tell my employees to move the cars, and they immediately do."
"Nobody owns the streets," he said. "This diner has been here since before these people moved in." His proposed solution to the problem was to eliminate the current alternate side parking regulations. "If these regulations didn't exist, then there wouldn't be a problem," he said. "There would be enough parking for everyone."
Strada said he was more than willing to approach Tsiolis and inform him that his employees would no longer be permitted to park on the street, but he added, "I don't know how successful we will be." A new sign prohibiting a left turn onto Albany Ave. after exiting the diner's parking lot was also proposed and considered.
Strada reminded residents that the Village of Westbury has its own parking attendants who have authority to issue summonses. He urged them to report any and all violations of parking regulations. "If we are not getting enough enforcement from the 3rd Precinct," he said, "then the village has personnel who can bang them with some tickets, and hopefully discourage those who are parking illegally." When a resident stated that many infractions occur on weekends, and village employee offices are closed, Strada said, "If we have to bring them in on weekends, we'll bring them in on weekends."
Gloria Monitto, chairperson of the Westbury Public Safety Commission concurred. "Enforcement is very important," she said. "As soon as violators see we are serious about this, the situation will change."
To report parking violations call the Village Hall at 334-1700.