Patchogue Parking issues

By Michael Sorrentino |

Patchogue Village’s explosion of business over the past few years has been creating a parking crunch, making a puzzle that both village officials and business owners have been working to solve.

Take a walk around Main Street right now, and you will notice that even more restaurants and shops — all destined to bring even more customers downtown — are coming at a breakneck pace.

‘A Whole Different Animal’

The situation shines a light on how the character-change for Patchogue Village contrasts greatly with the shopping-based identity the village had way back when the Swezey’s department store stood where the New Village at Patchogue complex is now, and BrickHouse Brewery was Shand’s hardware store.

”Most of the parking in the Village of Patchogue was based on a retail model,” said Jack Krieger, the village’s deputy mayor and parking commissioner.

Historically, Krieger noted that the parking lots on Church Street and Oak Street were more than capable of handling the level of people coming to shop in the village, since shoppers tend to come and go, and carpooling was a bit more common.

“Today it’s a restaurant crowd, it’s a whole different animal,” Krieger said.

The village has been working to acquire more land to help accommodate all the extra traffic often seen on weekend nights.

Krieger said that while discussions with property owners are ongoing, it’s important to find a solution that does not directly charge Patchogue Village residents.

“We just don’t believe that Patchogue Village residents should be paying for parking lots that they are not making money off of,” Krieger said, adding costs of these lots include not just building them, but also day-to-day maintenance.

The primary source of funding for Patchogue Village’s parking initiatives has been coming from revenue generated from the parking meters that were first put in operation on Main Street in January 2014, before eventually also coming to all of the popular parking lots in Patchogue Village.

Main Street’s spots are metered every day except for Sundays, and while most parking lot spots are always free, numbered spots that fall under the meter program typically begin charging from 6 p.m.-2 a.m. Mondays-Saturdays.

These meters are bringing in about $300,000 per year, Krieger said, between those paying into the meters as well as revenues from violations.

How long can Church Street last?

While Krieger is not able to say which exact properties are being eyed for future parking expansion, he did mention Church Street. The village had already acquired the 15 Church Street property back in February 2015, which along with another acquired property has since added several free parking spots onto the often-crowded lot closest to The Emporium music venue at 9 Railroad Ave.

Additional expansion would also be funded by the meter money, Krieger said.

Another aspect to the Church Street expansion plan: the street currently has several apartment buildings on it.

Church Street resident Shantiqa Brown said she is worried that she may eventually be forced to relocate should her landlord decide to sell off the building.

“Everybody was very shook up,” she said regarding rumors that her apartment building might be eventually purchased.

The building Brown lives in is right on the border of one of the village’s most active parking lots, especially when The Emporium venue has concerts, which she says also greatly affects her ability to get her own parking spot.

“The closer it gets to Thursday, the less parking there is for everybody that lives here,” Brown said. “I can’t stand it.”

Krieger said that while the village is moving ahead with expansion plans to build more parking, no new property acquisitions have been solidified as of yet.

Another Church Street resident who spoke under the name J.H. hopes that her building is left alone.

“Tell them to go that way, leave us alone. Our house is very nice looking, it looks like the bank on the corner,” J.H. said.

But the people in the lot get rowdy on weekends, she said, with cars shining lights through her windows and making noise while heading to or from shows, or the bars.

Could these ideas help the parking situation?

As expansion efforts move forward, several business owners watching Patchogue’s growth have been weighing in with their own thoughts on what would make it easier while dealing with all the extra drivers.

Marc Siegel, the president of Blum’s at 27 East Main Street, which is one of the longest running retail locations left on Patchogue Village’s Main Street, said that while the village has been doing a great job with Patchogue’s expansion, he hopes alternative, premium parking solutions are also considered.

“They tell me how much they are buying property for parking but it’s not my area behind my store,” Siegel said, which also features several other high-profile attractions like the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts, 89 North Music Venue and will soon have the Caribbean restaurant Rhum open up.

Siegel suggests the village look into creating a new parking area or a structure nearby, possibly funded by a $1 per car charge. The Oak Street parking lot currently behind this location features a mix of metered spots located close to Bridgehamption National Bank’s parking lot entrance, as well as free spots located behind the Congregational Church of Patchogue.

However, Krieger pointed out that when discussing a possible parking garage, the toughest part would be finding a location that would be fair to all of the businesses.

“We can’t build three parking garages, and a parking garage would be empty during the week,” Krieger said.

Eric Rifkin, the owner of Bobbique at 70 W. Main St., also praised the village’s efforts to adjust its parking capacity, noting that the situation has been a culture shock to customers that remember once being able to drive right up to the restaurant’s street entrance on a busy night.

“Now those people that have been spoiled come to town, and they have to park two blocks away. If you go to any vibrant town, you’re going to have to look for parking; it’s just the way it is,” Rifkin said, adding that Huntington and Babylon villages have been having similar parking situations for years. “It is extremely busy down here and I think people want to be part of a place that is extremely busy.”

In addition to considering expansion efforts, keeping in mind who exactly is driving into Patchogue Village on Friday and Saturday nights is also being considered by both village officials and those working on Main Street.

Paul Komsic, who is a brewmaster at BrickHouse Brewery, hopes that the village looks into its overnight parking policies, especially since some customers that drive into Patchogue Village to meet friends for drinks may end up realizing they should not drive home.

“When you’re drunk, your decision-making skills are not all there,” Komsic said. “At the very least it’s not safe for the patrons that you are inviting to the town to spend money.”

Krieger said that this issue is actively being discussed as well.

Monday: This could be what fixes Patchogue’s parking problems

Top: One of two newly built lots along Church Street, this one where a bank drive-thru once stood, is packed with cars midday last week. (Michael White photo)