The new configuration for entering and exiting the Montauk I.G.A. parking lot has locals, the East Hampton Town Police Department, and motel owners perplexed. While on the checkout line recently, a group of Montauk women even joked about staging an Occupy I.G.A. Parking Lot in protest.
South Elder Street faces the grocery store and is owned and maintained by the town, but many shoppers mistake it for the store’s official parking lot. Bill Clark, an owner of the I.G.A., said he is hearing complaints from customers blaming the store for changing the street to a one-way entrance from Montauk Highway and a one-way exit onto South Emerson, a road that is often traversed by beachgoers and is especially crowded at night by youngsters and pedestrians. The parking lot at the back of the I.G.A., south of the building, is owned by the store.
Diane Hausman, an owner of the Sands Motel on South Emerson Avenue, told members of the Montauk Citizens Advisory Committee on Jan. 9 that traffic near the motel had increased tremendously. “It’s a disaster,” she said. “In summer, kids are all over at night, going back and forth from the beaches.” She later added, “Locals and local businesses are being punished because of 7-Eleven.”
Laraine Creegan, the executive director of the Montauk Chamber of Commerce, said many people had been coming into the chamber office to complain and have asked that the configuration be changed back to the way it was. “They’re putting all that traffic back there on South Emerson and there are no sidewalks. Because there are no sidewalks, people tend to walk in the middle of the street,” she said, going on to point out that the new sign at the entrance to the I.G.A. changing it to one way has a stop sign above it, which is confusing.
The change was made at the end of last year as part of a town project in the hamlet that added new parking spaces. The plan also included measures to reduce the amount of traffic on Montauk Highway, since a 7-Eleven moved in across the street from the I.G.A. and the number of cars increased. Residents feared that someone might get hurt in the crosswalk, which is close to both stores to the east. Also, the fact that Puff ’n’ Putt, a miniature golf course, is on the same side of the street as 7-Eleven means pedestrians are frequently crossing the highway, sometimes late at night.
Part of the strategy was to change the exit-and-entrance pattern at the 7-Eleven, making the entrance on the east side and the exit on the west side, with no left turns allowed. Although Pete Ferraro, who owns the building and leases it to the convenience store chain, agreed to that, the tenants are now stalling, according to Police Chief Edward V. Ecker Jr., who appeared before members of the town board on Jan. 17 to ask them to intervene and get the state involved, as the highway is a state road.
The chief said that as of now drivers exiting the newly one-way South Elder Street are not being ticketed. “We’re not enforcing it yet. We’re waiting to get to the point where people understand it,” he said, adding that there is serious consideration being given to moving the crosswalk farther east. “We’re going to give it a chance and see what happens,” he said.
Mr. Clark said most people who drive out of the I.G.A. lot live and exit to the east. (There is a no-left-turn sign posted on the highway.) And, he said, the new setup will make for more of a safety hazard for those coming from the beach. “You’d be better with a light out there.”