Commuters Rage Against Parking

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Commuting to work via train is exasperating and expensive—add on the stress of parking and the threat of tickets, it becomes madness.

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Some parking in Syosset is off limits to commuters.

At the Syosset Train Station, there are 1,248 total parking spaces—with 1,160 for permit parking, 29 handicap spots, 56 two-hour meter spots and three spots for Long Island Rail Road employees, according to the Town of Oyster Bay public information office. Though that sounds like plenty, the sheer volume of passengers commuting from the station makes every morning a mad dash for parking. Josh Reimer, 27, said he arrives at the station a full hour ahead of schedule just to nab a spot in one of the quickly overflowing lots.

“I got tired of speeding around in a frenzy looking for parking, so I get here around 7 in the morning, when really I don’t have to catch the train until 8:15 a.m. or so,” said Reimer, who is a graphic designer in the city. “It wasn’t always this crowded here.”

The Town of Oyster Bay oversees parking lots at the Syosset, Bethpage, Massapequa, Hicksville, Glen Head, Oyster Bay and Locust Valley train stations. In those stations combined, there are less than 10,000 Town permit parking spots available—however, the Town said it currently has 27,604 active permits issued.

According to the public information office, the Town issues more parking permits than there are spaces because “many Town residents only use parking periodically.” They also said residents can use their Town parking permit at other stations within the Town.

In a statement, the Town of Oyster Bay said, “the Town of Oyster Bay is consistently working with its residents to meet the demands for railroad station parking, especially at its most utilized lots. This process is a delicate balance between an increasing ridership and a limited amount of parking. The Town is also working with the MTA, which ultimately is the beneficiary of increased ridership, to address the concerns commuters have expressed with respect to limited parking and increased demand for spots.”

Keith T., who chose not to give his last name, lives about four to five blocks away from the Syosset Train Station, about a five minute walk. He said commuters park in front of his house and down his block every single day, and it’s usually the same cars in the same spots.

“I really don’t mind during the day. When I’m at work, it makes it seem like there’s someone home at my house,” he said. “But most of the time people don’t come back until 9 or 10 at night, then I have to park down the block on my own street. There’s actually a car parked directly in front of my house whose been there for a full week now. I’m going to leave him a parking invoice on his car.”

Closer to the station, however, “no parking” signs line the side streets and business have put up emphatic signs declaring “no commuter parking” in big, red letters. An employee of the Dunkin’ Donuts adjacent to the main parking lot said he hears commuters bellyaching over their morning coffee every day.

“It’s a real problem,” he said. “They get very mad.”

But there are worse parking situations than Syosset, according to one rider. Karen Ontelli, 33, is a Bethpage resident that makes the drive to Syosset every morning to park on one of the commuter-friendly side streets. She said if commuters want a parking horror show, take a trip to the Bethpage Train Station in the morning and attempt to find a spot during the morning rush.

“I learned my lesson at Bethpage many times,” she said. “Twice I took a spot that I knew was only a 2-hour spot and both times I got a $120 ticket. I didn’t want to park there, but I have to get to work. I’d gladly pay to park at Bethpage, but there aren’t enough spaces.”

According to the Town of Oyster Bay, there are 980 total parking spaces at the Bethpage station. One commuter, Joe Nappi of Old Bethpage, said that amount of spots isn’t nearly enough to support the station’s ridership. Nappi has received two parking tickets for $120 each since Oct. 15, with court appearances set for the day before Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve.

“They think I’m not going to show up to court on those days, but guess what, I am,” said Nappi. “Why do I pay for a parking permit if there aren’t any spots available for me?”

While more residents will head into the city by rail road from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, MTA officials say the increased ridership is typically during its off-peak period, like weekends and evenings. Passengers who plan to leave for the city before daily commuters can get back to their cars will face a parking shortage.

“People should know that if they are planning to go into the city, parking [around the station] can be a little bit of a problem,” said LIRR Salvatore Arena. “Parking availability becomes more difficult during the holiday season simply because of the volume.”

Even so, Arena said people should not be deterred from taking mass transit. “It’s better to go into the city by train rather than by car,” Arena said. “Even after the morning rush, you tend to have a simpler day if you use mass transit.”

For parking tips and a round-up of the worst LIRR parking situations, turn to page 10A.

With Additional Reporting

By Dan Offner

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Steve Mosco is the senior managing editor at Anton Media Group, editor of Plainview-Old Bethpage Herald and a columnist for Long Island Weekly's food and sports sections.

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