Mineola needs big changes to its parking rules and infrastructure to help alleviate parking woes and aid businesses in its downtown business district, according to a villagewide parking study released last week.
The village should build a parking garage with at least 425 spaces, change parking hours for 65 spaces, add 34 parking meters and raise some parking fees to “create new parking opportunities for village residents, commuters, employees, shoppers and visitors,” according to the study conducted in the spring by Level G Associates, an Old Bethpage consulting firm.
The proposals would aid the growth of an area with the largest imbalance of parking supply and demand from customers attracted to successful businesses, Long Island Rail Road commuters and traffic at Winthrop-University Hospital, the study found.
The results “verify what people who live and work in Mineola have known for years — it is very difficult to find available parking in this area of the village between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekdays,” the study says.
Changes in other parts of the village could reduce congestion and make parking easier for residents, the study says.
The village commissioned the study in September 2015 to evaluate possible parking fixes as it continues efforts to revitalize the downtown area.
Mineola’s Village Board will weigh the recommendations in the coming months and likely implement some of them after gathering feedback from business owners and residents, Mayor Scott Strauss said.
“I would have liked to have gotten some of these things already in the works, but we’ve got the report now and we’re going to go forward with it,” Strauss said.
The study found 85 percent of the 1,538 munipal parking spaces in downtown Mineola were full on a weekday at peak parking times, compared with 50 percent on a Saturday, when the absence of commuters and local workers reduces the number of cars there.
The 591-bed hospital, busy LIRR station and successful restaurants have given Mineola “a unique downtown environment and energy” but also “overburdened” the parking supply, the study says.
The study proposes a 425-space parking garage built over the 120-space lot at First Street and Third Avenue, where a garage once stood, to increase parking capacity. That would help make parking less of a headache for local shoppers, Strauss said.
“I think if we can get that parking garage built, increase the number of spaces down there, the businesses will flourish, and they’ll flourish from our own residents,” he said.
The garage could be financed in part by an additional commuter permit that would offer a guaranteed parking space for a higher fee, the study says. A standard commuter permit currently costs $55.
The village could also seek to use 160 underutilized spaces on the roof of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority parking garage on Main Street as commuter spots, the study says.
Other recommendations include changing 60 commuter and 12-hour spaces to two-hour parking spaces; increasing fees for on-street spaces to 75 cents or $1 per hour from 50 cents per hour to discourage meter-feeding by business employees; and replacing 34 meters on Willis Avenue, Main Street and Mineola Boulevard that were removed during construction.
The downtown parking struggles are not related to the two commuter apartment complexes that have opened near the LIRR station, as some critics have worried, Strauss said. Two other complexes are set to be built.
Tony Lubrano, president of the Mineola Chamber of Commerce, said he favors the parking garages and any other measure that will make it easier to patronize downtown businesses.
But the village should consider ripple effects of any changes before making decisions, Lubrano said.
“There’s no such thing as an easy answer, because every answer raises two more questions,” he said.
Strauss said changes will not be “implemented overnight,” and any decisions will involve public feedback.
“We need buy in from everybody on this, that’s for sure,” Strauss said. “I don’t like to do things in a box.”
Reach reporter Noah Manskar by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 516.307.1045 x204. Also follow us on Twitter @noahmanskar and Facebook at facebook.com/theislandnow.