Board Clashes With Resident Over Commuter Parking

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The topic of miscommunication turned into a heated debate between Mayor Scott Strauss and resident Theo Rabinowitz at last week’s board meeting.

On Dec. 12, 2018, the village board passed a parking resolution, which banned parking from 3 to 5 a.m. in parking fields 1, 3, 7 and 7A, which are for commuter parking only, with the exception of Sundays and holidays.

“In our commuter lots, there’s been conversations over the years and certainly this year about abuse of the system,” said Strauss in December. “For $55, you can purchase a year-long commuter pass that allows you to park your vehicle in a commuter lot on a first-come, first-served basis. There are areas and people who abuse that privilege. This [resolution] will prevent a lot of that…I think this will free up many of the spots that are taken overnight by people who are not commuting.”

Rabinowitz, who lives in the apartment complex at 225 First St., and is a commuter parking pass holder, told the board that he was dismayed when finding out about the ban on overnight parking.

“I am both a commuter into the city and a resident in those town house apartment complexes,” said Rabinowitz. “…We have to park there. We have no other choice. If we have a car, we have nowhere to park overnight besides that commuter lot. I found out about this [ban] when I renewed my parking pass. I saw that this resolution was passed on Dec. 12, and there was no communication to us as commuter parking pass holders that this would be discussed.”

Theo Rabinowitz. (Photos by Anthony Murray)

Rabinowitz was also upset that the board gave no notice to residents to come to village hall to discuss the issue of overnight parking in the commuter parking lots.

“We don’t need to sir,” responded Strauss. “We have the right and the responsibility to adjust parking restrictions as we see fit. We did so for the residents who are actually commuters. You said that you park in the parking lot and take the train into the city?”

Rabinowitz responded, “Correct.”

“So you’re not using your car to commute,” said Strauss. “You use it there to store your car overnight probably for a week at a time.”

“Sometimes, but I do also use my car for work,” said Rabinowitz.

“But you don’t use your car to take yourself to the train station and hop on the train…,” said Strauss. “So you’re storing your car there. You’re not using it as a commuter as the parking lot was designed to be used by. Do you use your car to commute from your building, which is a block away from the train station, to the train station and get into the train? Or do you store your car there for probably weeks at a time taking spots from other residents who live further away who don’t have the ability…”

Before Strauss could continue, Rabinowitz tried to interject.

“Sir, don’t interrupt me,” Strauss said. “I did not interrupt you. Do not interrupt me. Answer my question if you could. Do you store your car there for weeks at a time and take spots from residents who need that parking?”

Rabinowitz responded, “Not without using it, sir.”

Rabinowitz told the board that there should be a system in place for residents who also have no place to park besides the commuter parking lot overnight, claiming the resolution pass was done in the dead of night.

“The first communication I have is this postmarked notice on Jan. 24,” said Rabinowitz. “A month and a half went by after you had passed this resolution without any communication to us about a change. I now have to scramble to find a new parking solution for myself.”

Strauss told Rabinowitz that there are 55 new parking spots south of the train tracks on Station Road.

“[There are] 55 parking spots that are brand new for commuter use that do not have the 3 to 5 a.m. restrictions,” said Strauss. “So feel free to use those if you want to store your car there for weeks at a time.”

Trustee Dennis Walsh suggested to Rabinowitz that he can pay $6 a day to store his car at the Intermodal Center or buy a parking space from the owner of his building.

“You said that this was passed in the dead of night? That is in fact incorrect,” said Strauss. “This is a topic that has been discussed continually amongst the board as well as our residents on a daily basis. We finally decided to put a solution to this…”

Rabinowitz interrupted Strauss by saying that there should have been notices sent out.

“Sir, do not interrupt me again, please. I gave you the courtesy to speak, give me the courtesy,” shot back Strauss. “You said there was no communication. That is a lie. There was communications in the papers, we sent out letters to everybody who has a pass or had a pass, we put out notices and said it’s not going to take effect until the signs are up. You admitted that you got those notices. You had ample time…So don’t come up here, lie to us and say that we should give you back parking and take it away from residents who need it. Where you store your car is not our problem…”

Strauss said the board took what was already in place, adjusted it to ease the residents who were complaining about it and provided parking for people who game the system.

Rabinowitz said that the notice he received should have mentioned the 55 parking spots on Station Road.

“One of the reasons we’re not doing that is because more than 55 people like you will take up all the parking spaces,” responded Walsh. “The purpose of those 55 parking spaces are for first responders and other people who work 24 hours a day…who need those spaces to travel into the city…”

“You could communicate with mailers,” said Rabinowitz.

“Sir, we did communicate with everybody we needed to communicate with,” said Strauss “You obviously disagree. We’re not changing it [the resolution], so enjoy it.”

7 COMMENTS

  1. The Mayor needs to settle down a little. Repeatedly calling a resident a “LIAR” is downright slanderous. The commuter parking situation remains a problem and it is growing with each new building in the area. Mr. Rabinowitz brought his concerns to the board and was treated horribly by the Mayor. When he pointed out the three times he attempted to contact the Mayor he was told he should have attended the meeting rather than expect a return call about an issue the Mayor doesn’t want to address.
    Renters in the area of the train station should not be utilizing commuter parking as their personal lot. I was always under the impression, these lots have had a 24 hour limit, unenforced. Indeed two trustees admitted they had witnessed vehicles left for weeks at a time. Why was no action taken then?
    Now, the 25 residents of this one building are invited to utilize the 55 new 24 hour commuter slots. This pushes out our first responders, Police, Firefighters, EMTs, Drs. Nurses etc, who work midnight tours.

    Why is it so hard to simply issue a permit to those who commute overnight? A decal could be issued to be placed alongside the regular permit. These commuters could simply submit time sheets or other proof of overnight employment. Next it needs to be asked, is anyone from code enforcement patrolling these lots from 3:00am to 5:00am? If not this whole discussion is a waste of time.

    Mr. Rabinowitz brings forward a problem that needs to be addressed and it seems the Village Board takes issue with somebody suggesting their actions and lack of communication may not be in this villages best interest. Our residents deserve the ability to utilize the commuter lots to commute. The people who rent in the area are certainly beating the system. The conversation needs to take place, not be avoided and residents of this village should never expect to be browbeaten for expressing their opinions to our Village Board.

  2. After watching this meeting, I was left with the impression that both sides were wrong here. Also for the record, signing up as I did a long time ago does not get you any notifications about any topics for any village meetings via email.

    And this issue about parking doesn’t end up at the train station. Horton Highway looks like the Indy 500 everyday as people are trying to park anywhere they can. And many have complete disregard for home owners and their ability to get in and out of their driveways.

  3. It seems that you people expect to have your own parking spot waiting for you at your own convenience. Try to drive closer to the City and you’ll find out much parking costs. There was plenty of notice from the Village for everyone to be properly informed, I don’t use commuting parking but the village news was in my mail box.
    If you live close enough to the Station you DON’T commute, we all know that you just want the convenience of free ($55.00) parking. Find your own spot or pay the price ! On the other side and to it make fair for all, there should be accommodations for those who commute to work at night.

  4. Artie and Jesse,

    Thanks for leaving your thoughts and for attending the meeting. I totally agree with both of you (as well as the mayor and the board) that commuter parking is clearly an issue for commuters. However, as Artie pointed out, there is room for a solution for BOTH commuters and residents in area complexes without parking. We are all resident’s of this mayor’s village and there are options worth exploring. I was highly disappointed by the mayor and Walsh’s dismissive and even sometimes insulting attitudes. Accusing those of us who leave our car overnight of gaming the system ignores the fact that we have had no other option on where to park our car. We are not trying to hurt anyone or take away other people’s parking, but we too need a car in order to live in this village and based on the fact that the 2 large apartment complexes by the train only offers parking for approximately 25% of its residents, this was our only affordable option. The reason I felt like I had to interrupt the mayor, as detailed in this article, is because he was going on a personal attack about my and my fellow residents’ motives for parking overnight.

    To address the equally substantial issue of communication, they can say that they have discussed this at past meetings all they want, but as you and I saw only a handful of people attend these meetings. The village clerk has all of our addresses on file. If this has been such a large issue (and I believe them that is) then the mayor, board and village clerk should have sent a mailer to all of us saying this issue will be discussed, at length, at a future village board meeting and encourage us all to attend. The fact of the matter is, and the mayor admitted this, this overnight parking resolution was first discussed and voted on at the same meeting, giving no time for a future meeting to be held for constituent input. This does not sound like transparent legislating to me. In addition, this notice that was sent out over a month and a half later never detailed the fact that there were a few overnight parking options allotted on Station Road. Not sure how those of us were supposed to know about said new overnight parking if it wasn’t in any literature sent to us and calls to the mayors office went unreturned (more on that later).

    In addition, a month and a half passed AFTER the resolution was voted on for the village to send out notice to those of us with a commuter pass alerting us of the change in policy (resolution was passed on December 12th and we didn’t get the mailer until January 24th). This is unacceptable. There is no reason why this mailer couldn’t have been sent to us the next week after. The signs were put up before we ever got alerted in the mail (which means, theoretically, the policy could’ve been enforced before we ever got anything in the mail). Lastly, despite the mayor’s insulting and false statement, I did make contact with his office 3 times and never heard back: within the span of about 10 days I had left him a voicemail, left a message with his receptionist over the phone and even showed up in person to try and speak to him, at which point his receptionist said she would leave another message for him and he would get back to me, which he never did. I don’t think it’s too much to expect for a mayor of a small village to get back to his constituents, especially if he sees they have reached out numerous times.

    I hope to see improved communication in the village and hopefully the board will be open minded to explore a Resident Parking Pass for those of us living in the middle of a village without a viable parking option. Since the meeting I have been using those spots by Station Road and while I am on the younger end age-wise, even for me it is a hike. You have to walk the block to the train station, cross the stair bridge over the tracks then walk essentially the length of 2 blocks to station road.

    What I would like to see the mayor and the board consider is forming a resident parking pass which would cost a few hundred dollars a year (a rise in price I wouldn’t have a problem paying), and we would get a sticker allowing us to park in some of the METERED spots either near the train or along Mineola Blvd without having to pay the meter. I believe there could be other options worth exploring as well, and I hope the mayor and board are open-minded to at least considering the idea and having more transparent and open lines of communication with their residents.

    Theo

    • Theo,

      Thank you for raising this issue and I definitely feel your pain. Reading the response also ticked me off. But parking in the metered spots doesn’t help you because of the village’s ridiculous overnight parking restriction. If it pleases the crown, is there so much parking on First Street that we can’t park there? Or on any street in Mineola (it’s more like a ghost town)? Obviously no.

      Did you know also that parking regulations were gutted so it no longer describes where and when you can’t park, and replaced it with ‘wherever there’s a sign?’

      Parking in Mineola needs a whole rework with residents and commuters in mind because after all, we (either directly or indirectly) pay for these roads, parking lots, and garages already.

      I don’t see any urgency on Strauss’ or the Board’s part, they don’t have to deal with looking for parking for 30 minutes in the middle of the winter and walking blocks to get home. When I got to the train station I look up at the sign and it says “Welcome to Mineola, home of Winthrop!” That’s all you need to read. Home of Winthrop, the County Seat, and government workers who have parking provided for them. That’s why you don’t see so many commuters, why there’s so many empty storefronts. Mineola could be so much more, but this is the reality.

      • Third sentence should read…”is there so much traffic on First Street that we can’t park there overnight?”

  5. “Let them eat cake!”

    I live in a building nearby and parking is a daily struggle, which will be made even worse with the new buildings (not that I’m against development). Where will Mr. Rabinowitz park now? Where will the new residents on Willis Ave and 2nd St park? I see so many $50 “penalties” in the future it might as well go in the budget as taxes.

    As per Walsh, parking in Mineola is only for government employees and “people who work 24 hours” (I think he means hospital employees). Not for the people who bust their behind schlepping into the city and who bring money into the Mineola community. In all fairness maybe the village can get by with the County seat and Winthrop.

    For the few years I’ve been here, I’ve asked myself why more people aren’t walking to the train (the best commute with the most trains in Nassau County) in the morning. Many do park and drive but still it’s not as crowded as you’d think given the number of trains and ride time. And I ask myself why the majority of storefronts are vacant, why there’s not the foot traffic you’d think you’d have with a village blessed by the Mineola station.

    It seems to me the answer is that village code and planning has not promoted or at worst discouraged the kind of organic growth you’d expect, starting with parking regulations.

    I ask myself why the village restricts parking 3am-6am on Mineola Blvd AND Willis Ave., when there’s almost zero traffic. Alternative side parking with no real rhyme or reason for the streets in between. Some residential streets are alternative on Saturday, some are only restricted on Thursday, it just makes no sense and has to be reworked with putting residents first in mind. IN FACT, the street parking code became so complex and convoluted that the Board took all of the language at some other meeting with no notice given to residents and replaced it with a sort of “if there’s a sign!”

    Mineola is not exactly Queens, and are the roads so dirty that residents need to spend sometimes 30 minutes a day looking for parking? Are there so many emergencies that residents need to park sometimes 4 or 5 blocks away from home where the streets rest empty? I understand the need to clean city streets but the residents like me pray we don’t get 2 inches of snow. Mr. Strauss and Walsh: renters or owners, we pay (directly or indirectly through taxes) for the roads. The government is supposed to work for US, maybe you and the Board need to remember that.

    I wouldn’t have written anything about this but the Mayor and Walsh’s belittling response to Rabinowitz signals to same and all other commuter residents to look elsewhere on Long Island for parking. ‘Cause there’s none here due to a huge web of what has now become diktats–the policy is “hear a sign, there a sign, everywhere a sign-sign!”

    In one word, until we read differently, the response from the Village reads as: leave.

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