Board of Directors reviews use of new parking lot

After the annual board reorganization meeting on Monday evening, the board discussed what to do with a new car park behind the ball diamonds at Stewart Field and only accessible via Raymond Court.

The lot was built atop the Garden City stretch of the historic Long Island Motor Parkway, also known as the William K. Vanderbilt Motor Parkway.

Mayor Cosmo Veneziale announced: “I have only heard negative comments about this car park and I have heard nothing in favor of keeping it in operation. The residents of Raymond Court are quite unhappy. They expressed (to the village administrators) that it was a dangerous situation with cars driving past their houses trying to enter the parking area. Their alleys and streets have sometimes been blocked, or people turn around there. These residents have expressed their concerns about this.

On Monday, the trustees decided that a “trial period” for closing access to the Raymond Court parking lot would be in place at the start of the Little League season this spring. An exact timeline, or plan for reopening the lot for public access, has not been announced.

Village administrator Ralph Suozzi asked the newly formed board if there should be a parking survey and land use study “as far as conditions now exist” with the start of Little League play this weekend.

Mayor Veneziale says any study into the use of parking lots at Stewart Field really should have been completed before, although he is glad the village can work to get it done now “to make sure everyone world is safe.”

Village attorney Peter Bee asked his company’s board to spend time reviewing the specific terms of the 10-year lease agreement the village signed with Nassau County, formalized during the term. Mayor Brian Daughney, since the land (former strip of Motor Parkway) is county property.

Attorney Bee was aware that the current discussion raised at Monday’s board meeting led to a “potential desire on the part of the board to terminate the lease”. He took care to advise the village to have his firm study “what might be necessary for the village to terminate its lease”. Bee advised against any council vote to terminate the current lease agreement with Nassau County.

“Under the terms of the 10-year lease which the village has the option to extend for another 10 years, the purpose of the lease is cited to provide public parking for the ball field, and there are obligations in this regard of the part of the Village of Garden City in the maintenance of the premises and such that any work performed therein requires a work plan approved by Nassau County prior to the commencement of work. There are a number of issues of that nature,” Bee told the board.

He then told Mayor Veneziale and council members “I don’t know if we have that right (to terminate) under the lease agreement and we have certain obligations. The county may wish that we continue to maintain the premises in accordance with the terms of the lease.

Bee also spoke about Nassau County’s expressed interest in historic maintenance of the old section of Long Island Motor Parkway with signage and commemoration, which has not occurred to date since the village leased space.

“Not speaking on behalf of Nassau County, I would suspect they are much more interested in the village that maintains this historic signage and the Motor Parkway area. I would be surprised if the county comments on whether or not the village continues to use the parcel as a parking lot, although it is the county’s right to suggest so,” he explained.

Access from school grounds?

After a few more points raised and corresponding questions from trustees, including Charles P. Kelly, the board requested more information regarding a parking access agreement with the Garden City Public Schools District through its large parking lot at the Stewart School.

Mr Kelly suggested starting with removing the ‘additional parking’ signage directing people to drive up to the north end of Raymond Court, as well as the directional sign posted at the end of Raymond Court to the Motor Parkway parking lot . He asked for clarification on the three gates observed for access to Stewart Field; two in a semi-circle for the fields and one for Stewart School, an elementary school field owned by the Garden City Union Free School District. Kelly said all three doors were locked, so he wanted to know when and how they were unlocked for additional access. He believed that for the two gates accessing the “outermost fields” control was with the Garden City Parks and Recreation Department.

Kelly noted that this would likely present better convenience for people attending sporting events at Stewart Field, which is located on a main road instead of the Raymond Court residential block. He also said the walk from the school grounds to the grounds from a gate would take about four to five minutes.

Garden City Parks and Recreation Superintendent Paul Blake explained that there are three gates to Stewart Field, and during sports season they are locked and opened/closed by his department’s employees. All winter each of these doors is locked. Then the gate to the school grounds became the focus of the discussion.

“The entrance gate to the Stewart School parking lot is controlled by the public school district and we do not have access to their keys. We can call[Garden City Public School District Superintendent]Dr. Kusum Sinha and ask the district to keep that door open…. so from there people could access the fields,” said Paul Blake.

Kelly replied that this plan would make walking safer for anyone who parks on the Stewart School grounds to get to the fields. “It would also provide the Village with a fair measure of parking availability at the start of the Little League season,” he said.

Administrator Bruce Torino said information about the proposed parking change should be published in The Garden City News, possibly with a diagram and noted in the Mayor’s weekly column.

Village administrator Ralph Suozzi said recreation department staff will be able to monitor usage of the current parking lot available for Stewart Field, “to see how the parking lot fills up at the start of the season.” Additionally, he suggested that monitoring Raymond Court during the Little League season could involve the GCPD, although no formal plans have been made.

Administrator Suozzi was unsure how soon the village could move to put up a new sign, noting that the Stewart School parking lot was the best alternative to the small lot on the north side of Stewart Avenue.

question about insurance

He later warned the board that if Mr. Blake informed Dr. Sinha of the potential parking solution, the school district could ask the Village of Garden City to name the school district (and its grounds) as insured party on the village. insurance policy because the gate would be unlocked and the fields belonging to the village could be accessed through it. Suozzi noted that this situation could be called into question if someone was injured on the property.

Superintendent Blake noted that one of the reasons the Garden City Public School District kept its gate locked was to keep unauthorized groups out of the fields. “It was a concern for the district to have a lot of people on the ground without the proper permits and insurance.” He said that would likely come up in his discussion with Superintendent Sinha.

Kelly said the first step for the government and staff of Garden City, as indicated by Mayor Veneziale, would be the temporary closure of parking access from Raymond Court.

“If you look at the total number of occupied spaces and if our recreation and parks department and the village administrator manage to open the pedestrian gate from Stewart School to the fields, then we are increasing the parking for the fields. There are more spaces in the Stewart School parking lot than the other two (in front of Stewart Avenue and next to Raymond Court at the top of the Motor Parkway) combined. Once we’ve made it convenient and accessible, I think the Stewart School lot is frankly a lot easier for drivers to get in and out of than the Raymond Court lot,” Kelly commented.

Mayor Veneziale said he agreed it was a good idea and, at the forefront of the decision, he stressed the need to “bring relief” to residents of Raymond Court who have been troubled since the opening of the land above the Motor Parkway.

The mayor also noted that “probably within a year their neighborhood will be inundated with traffic at 555 Stewart Avenue,” referring to the large multi-family dwellings being built nearby in the northeast corner of the village.

Administrator Kelly added that the residents of Raymond Court face a difficult situation as it is, and it would be nice if the village could make their daily life a little easier, especially when sporting events take place in Stewart Field. “We’ve all heard residents of Raymond Court describe to us what their block is like and how they’ve had to keep their children inside with the many cars coming up to park there,” he said.

In public comments on Monday evening, Meadow Street resident Steve Ilardi, former president of the Eastern Property Owners’ Association, told the board that the decision to turn the old Motor Parkway into a car park “didn’t not been caught in a vacuum”.

“People used to park up and down Raymond Court and cars lined both sides of the street as there were no curbs. There were security issues on Raymond Court with people turning around to get a parking space. I don’t know if the decisions you make here tonight will limit parking on Raymond Court itself. The other concern was people crossing Stewart Avenue on their way to the fields after parking on the south side of the main road. I believe the police expressed concerns about the safety of pedestrians doing this walk at the time,” Ilardi said.

Denise W. Whigham