Village of Roslyn merchants say parking policy hurts business

Village of Roslyn merchants say parking policy hurts business
A string of parking refund tickets, a result of broken meters, behind the Village Nails of Roslyn desk. (Photo by Teri West)

Victoria Gothels said her job as manager at Village Nails of Roslyn has gradually morphed into one similar to the role of a valet. If a customer comes in stressed because the meter she parked at was broken, Gothels takes her keys, finds another meter to print a pass at and slips it on her dashboard. If another says her meter printed a refund ticket after she paid but never got a pass, the manager will make the call for her to get the dollar back.

The nail salon has been open for 30 years, and owner Judy Seu said the shop has never been in so much trouble financially. She’s not alone.

Storeowners and employees along the Village of Roslyn’s main business street, Old Northern Boulevard, which is lined with restaurants and boutiques, say the ever-malfunctioning meters, lengthy list of parking regulations and strict enforcement are gradually gutting the village of its customers.

“I would say our sales are down 10 percent year over year and most of it’s pretty much because of parking,” said one business owner, who like many requested anonymity. “People don’t want to stop. They don’t want to park. They can’t even find parking spots.”

In a climate where competition with Internet retail already makes it tough for brick-and-mortar stores, municipalities need to be extra consumer friendly, another said.

“They just put a deaf ear to it,” she said of the Village of Roslyn government. “For us as the retailers, it’s really impactful because the people who used to come into town to do this and do that they don’t do it anymore because they’ve already got a bad taste in their mouth because of the parking.”

The village has begun easing up on some ticketing, but the damage has already been done, she said. Once word got out that it’s hard to shop in Roslyn without getting a ticket, people stopped coming.

The central section of the village’s business area stretches from the clock tower up to an often-vacant lot. Muni-Meters, which charge 25 cents for 15 minutes, apply to most spots on that block, including a lot next to the lake. Tickets range from $20 for an expired meter to $300 for an abandoned vehicle. Most offenses have $30 penalties.

Revenue from meters was down by about $55,000 from the 2016-17 fiscal year to the 2017-18 year, according to the village’s current budget, dropping from $229,569 to $174,940 despite the village having anticipated an increase to $240,000.

This year the village is projecting $238,500 in revenue, almost $40,000 more than last year’s estimate, as it continues to anticipate gains from eliminating the free 10-minute parking meters, said village Clerk Anita Frangella. Patrons would abuse the system, switching meters every 10 minutes to get continuous free parking, she said.

She also attributed anticipated gains to a new meter maintenance contract. In April, the village arranged a one-year, $10,800 agreement with Amano McGann Inc. for the company to repair meters within 24 hours of being reported broken, Frangella said.

A broken meter might mean it is only taking $1 bills when it can normally also take quarters or cards. Other times, it prints a refund ticket instead of a parking pass, Gothels said. She has a collection of them taped to her desk at the nail salon.

The meters instruct the patron to dial a number to get the dollar back.

Debby Levine, who got a manicure last Thursday, ended up paying $5 for parking because she got a refund ticket at one meter and then had to head to another.

Lori Krantz wrote a note on her car after she put in two singles and nothing came out.

“I have two refund tickets in my house,” she said. “It’s just a hassle.”

Deputy Mayor Marshall Bernstein said he would bring up the ticketing policy for cars parked at broken meters with the village code enforcers.

“If I were to park at a meter that doesn’t work and it’s obviously broken, that does sound kind of harsh to me for somebody to be ticketed for that situation,” he said.

To challenge a parking ticket, one must head to the Roslyn Village Hall on a weeknight evening.

“People just pay it,” one storeowner said. “They don’t go to court. They forget the date, it’s a month away, it’s at 6 or 7 during dinner time. It’s easier to pay it.”

The justice court took in $199,430 in 2017-18, down from $259,251 the previous year but up from $148,502 in 2015-16, according to village budgets.

Around Old Northern Boulevard’s Bend, under the viaduct, a village-owned parking lot has free one-hour parking — a rare find in the village. It is free because it’s state-owned property, said Village Attorney John Gibbons.

The vacant lot at the corner of the road’s bend is village-owned but not yet metered. The village is in the planning stages of making it a public parking lot, which will involve reworking the traffic light, the deputy mayor said.

In October, the Roslyn Chamber of Commerce approached the village Board of Trustees with a list of requests to improve parking, including replacing the meters and changing free parking from Monday to Sunday. The latter was one of a few changes that the board enacted. It also fostered the maintenance contract with Amano McGann.

“It doesn’t come to the attention of the Board of Trustees very often,” Bernstein said of parking. “We certainly understood that the Chamber of Commerce had a lot of issues with the way we were operating the Muni-Meters. We did hire an expert to advise us on this and we tried to find a common ground between what our expert said we need to do.”

The chamber thought that the main issues it raised were addressed, but if meters continue to regularly break, perhaps it is an issue to take up with the manufacturer, said chamber President Steven Blank. (Blank owns this newspaper).

The board is open to continuing discussions with residents and the business community about parking, Bernstein said.

Abolishing meters, however, is not the solution, he said. The meters equitably distribute parking among visitors and raise much-needed revenue for the village given New York’s cap on property tax growth, Bernstein said.

He argued that issues about attracting customers and vacant storefronts are not unique to or any worse in Roslyn.

“I don’t think that is a particular issue with our downtown,” he said. “I think you’ll find the same kind of vacancy rates in other municipalities.”

Like many of Roslyn’s businesses, a number of Village Nails of Roslyn’s loyal, longtime customers continue to come. But when they arrive, they are stressed out, and it’s because of the parking, Gothels said.

And some have simply had enough and don’t return.  “People lose patience,” Seu said.

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