By Jano Tantongco
The town’s parking garage concept has drawn mixed responses from Huntington village merchants, many of who see the need for more spots in the long run, but worry about the immediate impacts and aftermath of construction.
The Huntington Town Board approved the second phase of a financial feasibility study for a 528-space, three-story, and four-level parking garage between Green and New streets in the village. The structure, estimated to cost around $16.4 million, would collect parking fees, according to the first phase of the report published by Old Bethpage-based consulting firm Level G Associates.
Francine Federici, of Huntington, owns Francine’s Fashion Boutique at 5 Green St., across the street and adjacent to the envisioned site. She said the village in its current state requires far more parking, but has lingering questions about the construction time frame and how it would be mitigated.
“We absolutely, 100 percent need a parking garage,” Federici said.
With congestion worsening over the years, Federici sees the structure filling in the parking deficit. She pointed to expansions in residential projects in the village without corresponding adequate parking.
“I used to take my son down to the village all the time for ice cream. I don’t do it anymore because I know I’m going to drive around for a half hour, especially at night, to try to find a parking spot,” Federici said.
The owner of neighboring Medici Fine Stationery & Gifts, who requested her name not be used, said the influx of apartments in the village has contributed to the problem. But, she doesn’t think the New Street is the right spot for it.
“That parking lot closing for a month will basically close me down,” she said, adding that she plans to speak publicly at the August town board meeting.
Town spokesman A.J. Carter, addressing concerns of losing parking spots during construction, referenced the Gerard Street lot, which was partially-closed for construction during a four-month period in 2014. Carter highlighted the ways the town attempted to mitigate the loss of spaces, including through shuttles into the village from the Mill Dam parking lot. The work was also done in two phases so that only one half of the lot was closed at a time.
“The town is aware of the need to make arrangements during construction of the parking garage. While some ideas have been thrown around, nothing has been finalized yet.” Carter said. “Before it starts, a plan will be developed.”
Bob Scheiner, a member of the town’s parking committee and former chair of the Huntington Chamber of Commerce, said he supports the plan to build a garage.
“I’ve been very, very impressed with Level G. Basically, they’ve come to pretty much the same conclusion that the town and the parking committee has come up with,” Scheiner said. “I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
Scheiner is hopeful the town will soon issue a detailed request for proposal to build a structure with “minimal disruption.”
Peter Pastorelli, managing partner of the Icehouse Apartments, which brought an additional 26 units to the village last year, said the village needs more parking options for the “greater good.”
However, he added, construction might dampen his one of his businesses in the short term. He’s also the founder of Value Drugs, which has a village branch at 349 New York Ave., across the street from the proposed garage.
“Everything in town is competing against any other place, besides the online business and retail generally struggling,” Pastorelli said. “Then, without adequate parking, the retail is suffering even more. What are you going to do: pull into CVS or look for a parking space to go into Value Drugs?”