By Danny Schrafel
Starting Friday morning at 9 a.m., you’ll now be able to drop off your keys and not worry about finding a spot in Huntington village!
The town’s free valet parking pilot program has officially begun in the New Street municipal lot. The service will be available from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, according to a press release announcing the roll-out.
Town officials say the new program, administered by LAZ Parking New York/New Jersey, will allow for 40 percent more cars to be packed into the 215-space lot, located between New and Green Streets south of Main Street, while offering Friday and Saturday visitors a new convenience.
“Valet parking should provide an attractive option for motorists who do not want to spend time searching for a parking space,” Supervisor Frank Petrone said. “This is one more way the [Huntington village parking] consortium is trying to make parking easier and more convenient for people to shop, eat or take advantage of the many cultural opportunities in the village.”
The town board in May approved the three-month pilot program, which has an option for a three-month extension, and set aside $50,000 for the project.
Town spokesman A.J. Carter said Wednesday that the valet option will use about one-third of the lot, starting on the New Street side. Based on demand, the town will make adjustments to the size of the valet area and could add days if demand warrants it.
“This can be expanded at-will. It’s a matter of moving cones,” he said. “After day one, if we see we need more spaces, we’ll just expand it for day two.”
Signs will be posted identifying the dates and times of the program, and spots will be blocked off the night before. Any cars in the lot when valet parking begins “run the risk of being blocked in,” and the owner will have to wait for the valet to move the other cars before they can leave, Carter said.
Motorists who miss the 1 a.m. call will still be able to retrieve their vehicles, but it’ll cost them a few bucks. Tardy valet parkers will have to call LAZ Parking, and the staff member tasked with securing those keys will return to the lot for a fee, paid to LAZ Parking, Carter said.
The pilot program is another outgrowth of Nelson\Nygaard’s parking study, filed with the town last July, which offered recommendations toward improving parking in Huntington village. The study was funded by a five-partner consortium, including the town, the town’s Economic Development Corp., the Huntington Village Business Improvement District, the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce and The Paramount.
In the parking study, Nelson\Nygaard analysts said a valet option would be beneficial during peak periods, such as on weekends and during big public events, to manage high parking demand.
Since that study was released, the town has also revamped downtown parking rules and pricing, instituting multi-meter parking in “prime” parking areas along Main Street and New York Avenue, which now cost $1 for one hour of parking. Elsewhere in town, the parking fee was raised to 50 cents an hour. Late last month, an initial one-hour minimum payment was scrapped for cash purchases.
Parking enforcement hours were also shifted, from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. to 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Motorists can also now park in the same spot for three hours as opposed to two hours previously.
When the new system went live in late April, Public Safety officers did double-duty as parking ambassadors to show motorists the ropes. Parking ambassadors, in the guise of student volunteers, will return to the streets soon for the summer season, Carter said.
Meanwhile, a contract is being finalized with Parkmobile USA to offer a smart phone app to pay for the metered parking, Carter said. Once the contract is signed, it should take about two to three weeks to go live, he added.
Looking at another municipal lot, the first phase of reconstruction on the Gerard Street lot is expected to begin in July, the spokesman added. The town plans to reconstruct the lot in halves, and the project is expected to take 12 weeks to complete.