Village of Great Neck Plaza trustees voted Wednesday to update the village code to clarify parking regulations on the west side of South Middle Neck Road between Brompton Road and Pont Street, which has been the source of confusion for motorists.
The revised language now conforms with language on street signs along that section of South Middle Neck Road that there will be “No parking any time, except when authorized to be used as a loading zone” and “Loading zone, commercial vehicles only, 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.”
The old village code read that there would be “no parking, loading zone, commercial vehicles only, 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.” – a semantic difference with practical consequences.
“The issue came to light because the mayor received complaints from people who were trying to get onto Middle Neck Road, so they thought as a matter of safety nobody should be parking there,” said Richard Gabrielle, an attorney for the village. “The signage was changed at that point.”
Village of Great Neck Plaza Clerk Patricia O’Byrne said people had been illegally parking Middle Neck Road between Brompton Road and Pont Street and getting away with it.
Motorists trying to make a left turn onto South Middle Neck Road from Brompton complained to the village that with cars parked they could not adequately see if cars were coming from the north.
O’Byrne said the resolution passed Wednesday forbids parking at the section of road until the village can hire a traffic consultant to determine if it is safe for cars to park there.
“Hopefully the law is clear now as to what is allowed,” Gabrielle said.
Mitch Pitnick, a Russell Gardens resident and an attorney for the Town of North Hempstead, said the board was updating the code the wrong way.
Pitnick said his interpretation of the ordinance was that the section of road was designated as a commercial loading zone between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m., and that parking was allowed for cars between 2:01 p.m. and 6:59 a.m. He said he had parked there before December – when new signs were put up saying no parking – and was never issued a ticket.
Pitnick said the village had changed the signs without changing the code first, but Gabriele said the law passed Wednesday simply clarifies what was already in the village code.
Gabriele said the old code could be interpreted in different ways, and that Pitnick was reading it to mean one could park in the space after it was designated as a loading zone.
“They were allowing parking,” Pitnick said. “Whether they intended it or not, it had been that way for years.”
Things got heated when Pitnick said the board was not being transparent in considering the parking resolution.
“You used the word transparent – we’re in a public meeting room,” Great Neck Plaza Deputy Mayor Ted Rosen said. “It’s not an issue of transparency.”
Trustees defended the loss of the parking spaces, saying it would improve public safety.
“More parking would be wonderful but it can’t be at the expense of safety,” Great Neck Plaza Trustee Larry Katz said.
After trustees came back from a five-minute break, which Celender called for in the middle of the discussion about two hours into the meeting, Pitnick said he wanted to know what the trustees talked about during the break.
The trustees said there was no executive session declared, and that they went to the bathroom.
Trustees and Gabriele stressed the need to determine if the area was safe for parking, but Pitnick said he thought the trustees were “just saying” the word safety.
“No, it’s going to be done by an expert,” Celender said.
Pitnick said the village shouldn’t have switched the signs based on a series of complaints, and should have had a traffic expert look at the area to determine if it was dangerous to have cars parked there first.