By Josh Farber and Nick Spennato
Today, Catalina is walking to work in a downpour. It’s over a quarter mile hike past two parking lots, the parking spaces lining the now flooding Third Ave are mostly empty. She drove her car, but she can’t park on Third anymore because of the meters. They are too expensive and they have a two-hour limit. She is a barista, and once behind the bar, she can’t leave her post. So since April, when the nearest parking lot started charging 75¢ an hour, or $90 a year, she decided to leave the car behind. Like many of the workers in downtown Bay Shore, she now gets to work by foot, shine or rain.
“It’s annoying on a day like today, when it’s pouring.” Catalina Cangemi, who works at the Bay Shore Bean Coffee House, said. “I have to hike a mile to get to work because otherwise I’d have to run out and feed the meter every two hours. It’s $90 for the whole year if I want to park in any of these spots. I’m not paying $90 to go to my job.”
The inconvenience to workers and the drain to small businesses because of the new parking meters is what led 35 of Bay Shore’s community leaders and small business owners to protest, demanding change at the Islip town board meeting this past Tuesday.
Bay Shore’s new parking system began in 2014 as part of a pilot program, starting with meters to prevent Fire Island ferry users from clogging the streets. It gradually moved to the lots and streets of their downtown district over the last year.
Complaints about the downtown meters vary, from decreased foot traffic to the undue burden it puts on employees due to the unclear signage, Donna Periconi, president of the greater Bay Shore Chamber of Commerce for the last 20 years, said.
“During one of our street festivals I wound up bringing rolls of quarters to help people who didn’t know they would have to pay for parking,” Periconi said.
A recent survey conducted by the Chamber of Commerce during one of their street fairs showed that 52 percent of people in attendance said they tried to avoid shopping in Bay Shore due to the parking, with an additional 7 percent saying they stopped coming altogether. Of the business owners interviewed, 40 percent noticed dropping sales since the practice began.
“Employees have to fight on the streets where there’s limited free parking,” Carissa Zino, a Bay Shore waitress, said. “Then you have to come out to your car with a $75 ticket after working a nine hour day.”
The funds from the meters don’t seem to be reinvested in the area, which was a promise of the original pilot program, Periconi said. Along with the protest, the Chamber of Commerce also filed a FOIL request with Islip’s town board to see where the funds are being distributed.
In the town of Islip, the hamlet of Bay Shore is the only one saddled with parking meters.
“In the 90s, 43 percent of the downtown was boarded up,” Periconi said. “We took every step, did everything we could to revitalize the downtown, and now we have these meters and a town board that just doesn’t care. It’s unfair.”