Bay Shore parking meters hot topic of discussion
The Town of Islip candidates up for election each had their chance to share their input on various topics that affect their constituents at a Meet the Candidates event held at Sycamore Avenue Elementary School in Bohemia on Monday night. Town clerk and receiver of taxes candidates took to the four-seat stage first, followed by town council, and finally town supervisor.
First to take the stage were Joe Fritz and incumbent Olga Murray, who are both running for town clerk. Then, those running for town council and supervisor were all asked which issue in the township is the most vital to address, which elicited five different answers.
Tom Murray, running for town supervisor against incumbent Angie Carpenter, said he knocked on doors the last several months to find out just that.
“Everywhere I go, there is a different issue,” Murray said. “But overall, the main issue I see facing this town is that people feel that they are not being heard.”
Murray referenced both the parking meter situation in Bay Shore and the Island Hills proposal in Sayville in relation to his claim.
“As the town supervisor, I will give the town back to the people [and] hold more town board meetings so that everyone can be heard,” he said. “We are all stakeholders, and we can make a difference together.”
When Carpenter was asked the question, she explained that school taxes are the majority of a resident’s taxes while taxes for the town only come out to about 4 percent.
“As far as listening to the people, we listen,” Carpenter said. “Anyone who has been to a town board meeting can tell you how we listen. No matter how negative, no matter how nasty, now matter how disrespectful those comments are that are hurled at us, we sit there and we listen.”
Incumbent Mary Kate Mullen also mentioned the cost of living as the main issue in the township.
“We on Long Island are being taxed out of the area,” Mullen said. “Within the Town of Islip, we work very hard, and we have maintained an AAA bond rating, which allows us to borrow at an excellent rate. We have made good choices over the last few years and have learned to do more with less.”
Incumbent John Cochrane said that the amount of people affected positively or negatively by a project connects constituents with a local government. “The concern is every hamlet has projects going on, and their voice means a lot to us,” Cochrane said.
Town council challenger Jorge Guadron pinpointed over-development as a major issue in the township. “The irresponsible and careless approval of zoning changes without given the appropriate consideration to both the development itself and also the infrastructure,” Guadron said. “Every development project must be carefully and thoroughly studied and considered where the residents living near a given proposal and is of utmost importance.”
Leigh-Ann Barde, running for town council, could not attend the event on Monday night due to a family emergency.
The hot topics of the night were the Bay Shore parking meters and the Island Hills development project in Sayville. Although no candidate thought expanding the meter program to other hamlets was a good idea, the three incumbents each expressed that suspending the program would be fiscally irresponsible.
“I would never advocate for parking meters,” Carpenter said. “However, when the hamlet of Bay Shore came to the town and said we have a parking problem, it was an issue that was brewing in the hamlet of Bay Shore for 20 years.”
Carpenter said she did an extensive amount of groundwork when she took office and inherited the problem. She also applauded councilman Cochrane for taking ownership of the meter situation and explained the program to the relevant chambers of commerce.
She noted that 60 percent of the parking in downtown Bay Shore is free. She also said meters at train stations across Islip are a possibility to look into. Mullen agreed with this thought.
“With respect to expanding it to railroad stations, that is something that we would probably have to examine,” Mullen said. “Bay Shore is a very unique hamlet within the Town of Islip. There are many restaurants and businesses. It has a great, bustling downtown, so there are parking problems within the hamlet and [they] need to be addressed with a parking management program.”
Cochrane, who is also a business owner on Main Street, said that Bay Shore simply has more parking lots than any other hamlet within the township. “Bay Shore has 20 parking lots,” he said. “East Islip doesn’t. Islip doesn’t. It costs a lot of money to maintain those parking lots—clear them when it snows in the winter. The general fund pays for that. This money from the meters goes to the general fund.”
However, both Tom Murray and Guadron explicitly said they would suspend the meter program in Bay Shore immediately upon election.
“I am against double taxation, so I cannot and will not approve [nor] support any measures of parking meters expanding anywhere else,” Guadron said.
He said he would then bring the question forth to the residents of Bay Shore, whether that verdict entails alterations, no changes or outright suspension of the meter program.
Murray said he would also support the suspension of the meters and bring the topic at hand to the people of Bay Shore to decide how to proceed. He also suggested that times have changed and services like Uber and Lyft put a dent in parked cars in a busy downtown like Bay Shore.
The parking meters in Bay Shore were first installed in 2014, with the understanding that other hamlets within the township would be receiving them in succeeding years. When it became clear that removing them was not an option, the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Bay Shore filed a lawsuit against the Town of Islip last November.