“We’re looking for help to find a valid solution,” Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. told the people who gathered last Thursday night with the East Hampton Village Board to look at parking problems and possible solutions.
“We’re only as good as the input we get,” he said. “We want to see if we can’t make things a little easier for the good people of this village.”
The meeting was called to come up with creative solutions to the burgeoning parking predicament in the village, where, in the summer, the number of spaces — approximately 830 — roughly equals the number of employees working in the businesses, potentially leaving no room for customers.
“We have 800,000 vehicles going in and out of the Reutershan parking lot alone between April and December,” said Larry Cantwell, the village administrator.
Efforts to have employees of Main Street and Newtown Lane businesses park in the long-term parking lots near Gingerbread Lane have been unsuccessful, as those workers tend to fill up the closer lots. Some are even “entrepreneurial people who go out with a wet rag and wipe the chalk marks off their wheels,” the mayor said. “That’s a class A misdemeanor.”
Elaine Hayes, the owner of Special Effects Salon at the corner of Newtown and Osborne Lanes, had no sympathy for workers walking, and neither did her employee, Julie Terry. Ms. Hayes maintained that she, and all of her workers, park in the long-term lots.
“You can wring me out some days when I come to work,” Ms. Terry offered. “I look like a drowned rat. But we have to do that. I would never consider taking a closer spot that a customer might use.”
As it is, Ms. Hayes said, the one-hour parking on Newtown Lane is killing her business. “I’m losing customers,” she said.
Her creative solution has been to offer her clients, some of whom are elderly and can’t walk from the lots — an impromptu valet service, parking their cars for them in the lots and taking them back when the appointment is done, but she lobbied for two-hour parking places, at least at the north end of Newtown Lane.
“We hear you loud and clear,” said the mayor.
Other suggestions ranged from paid parking, with the ability to be validated after making a purchase in a store (“But what would stop employees from validating their own tickets?” mused Barbara Borsack, the deputy mayor), to offering a shuttle service for employees from the back lots.
“The mindset here,” Mayor Rickenbach said, “is people — employees and customers — who don’t want to walk for five minutes. It’s about instant gratification.”
“We need to give employees the mindset that the customers should park closer to the stores, or those employees may not have jobs anymore,” said Rick Lawler, a board member.
Many kudos were given to Hamptons Free Ride, a free electric shuttle service that ran last summer and is planning to return this summer as well.
“Would the board ever consider putting a parking garage in one of those back lots?” asked Bernard Kiembock, who owns the Village Hardware Store on Newtown Lane.
“No,” the mayor said. “No, no, no.” The board and the audience shared a laugh.
Andrew Goldstein, the chairman of the village zoning board of appeals, spoke out against paid parking. He also asked that the traffic control officers be “called off” during the week in the winter months, when “there are only three cars parked on Main Street. The idea of getting a parking ticket on a Tuesday in January only contributes to the general malaise,” he said.
“Would the trustees consider drafting a letter to the businesses, saying you are doing your best to provide parking for their customers, and could they encourage their employees to park in the long-term parking?” asked Margaret Turner of the East Hampton Business Alliance.
The board agreed to that. “If it’s a concern to you folks, it’s a concern for us,” the mayor told the audience.