By Annette Hinkle
Cars and where to put them, especially in the summer when there are a lot more of them, is an issue which is always ripe for discussion in East End villages and hamlets.
At the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) on Monday night, Tom Neely, Southampton Town’s director of public transportation, was on hand to discuss the specifics of public parking in Bridgehampton as it relates to traffic and transportation.
Neely started by offering a little history.
“In 2005-06, the town undertook a comprehensive review of the parking situation in Bridgehampton,” he said. “We looked at the municipal lots – the three right in the hamlet Main Street area. We also looked at the capacity along Montauk Highway and adjacent side roads and some private lots.”
“There’s probably in the range of 450 parking spaces within that circle around the hamlet center area,” he added. “Of that, 240 are within municipal lots and another couple hundred are on the street, and 125 are in private lots.”
Neely added that around the time of the review, the town also changed a number of regulations related to the municipal lots — particularly where overnight parking is concerned.
“We eliminated overnight parking in all municipal lots, so basically you can’t park from 3 to 5 a.m.,” he explained.
Because Bridgehampton is something of a transportation hub, the town did, however, provide for 22 long-term permit-only parking spaces in the Candy Kitchen lot and at the Long Island Rail Road lot. In 2012, the number of long-term permit spaces was increased to 36, reflecting the rise in demand that came over the years.
In 2005, Neely said the town sold 171 long term parking permits. That number was up to 250 permits in 2013, though Neely noted the break-down of who’s buying them has largely stayed the same, with 95 percent of permits purchased by Southampton Town residents (a third of whom live in Bridgehampton).
But resident Leonard Davenport had several complaints, specifically about the Candy Kitchen lot. He described the mid-day parking scene there this summer as an “incredible zoo” and questioned why cars were scrambling for a limited number of spaces and parking illegally while many other spaces sat empty.
“There are all these empty spaces on the perimeter that are limited to permit parking,” said Davenport. “It seems a better signage would say you can’t park in the lot from 2 to 5 a.m. without a permit.”
“It’s a very bad elimination of 30 spaces – 20 of which are taken out of use during the normal business day,” he added.
Neely responded that the intention of the permit spaces was to balance long term and short term parking needs — that is shoppers vs. passengers using the Hampton Jitney or Long Island Railroad to travel in the city.
“The reason we put them on the perimeter was so spaces closest to Main Street would be for shoppers,” said Neely.
“But it doesn’t really work that way,” countered Davenport. “I’d like a change in signage to increase vacancy during the day.”
Which brought up the issue of Bridgehampton functioning as a transportation hub. Davenport noted that the Candy Kitchen lot, where permit holders can park for up to five nights, doesn’t see the same usage as the LIRR lot, where long term parking is up to 14 nights and frequently full. It was noted the private Newman Village professional building lot, just up the street from the Candy Kitchen, allows overnight parking in its lot and is used by many Jitney riders. In addition to changing the signage in the Candy Kitchen lot, it was suggested that more long term parking be offered at the train station.
Neely noted he would take a look at the parking situation and come back to a future CAC meeting to talk about more issues related to roads and traffic.
Also on Monday, the CAC heard from Christine Fetten, director of the town’s Municipal Works department, who offered an educational presentation on best management practices to keeping coastal waters clean. She emphasized the need to reduce the amount of nitrogen, pathogens and phosphorus flowing into local water bodies through storm drains in the form of illicit discharge such as paint and solvents, detergents or diverted sewage.
Fetten also advocated for small lawns with native vegetation to reduce the need for irrigation and chemical application. She also encouraged recycling, and noted the town would be distributing reusable tote bags at the upcoming San Gennaro Feast of the Hamptons in Hampton Bays on October 5.