To the Editor,
I attended a Greenport Village Board work session on Oct. 10, presumably the last of six extended public sessions, to hear feedback about changes to Chapter 150, “Zoning.” Several business owners, and the Business Improvement District, have publicly zeroed in on proposed parking regulations and fees, as well as changes in post-disaster building reconstruction guidelines.
I have not spoken at the sessions because I’m of mixed minds, and did not feel I had a clear enough position to add. However, I’ve been struck by the reactions and some arguments related to the proposed parking regs, which have been substantially modified over the months based on numerous meetings, the input of BID, and various attorneys.
I found some of the characterizations a bit quizzical. One obviously sharp woman urged the board to maintain the Village’s quirkiness. While I think her objection is partly based on environmental concerns about adding parking lots, it’s not clear how allowing a parking cluster to continue during the busy summer months (when everyone wants to be downstreet) helps to maintain our specialness.
The ill-behaved drivers in Greenport aren’t what contribute to our quirkiness (though it’s true everyone has an “OMG” story about drivers’ bad habits). Traditionally it’s been the mix of working-class families — many of whom were able to make a living, at least part-time, on the water — stitched together by marriage and intergenerational bonds, along with scores of artists, writers, all manner of intellectuals, and others who have lived in this small village and have contributed to its uniqueness. Many of these folks can no longer afford to live here or have chosen to leave, but that’s another story.
Perhaps one reason hoards of full-time residents aren’t presenting at these particular sessions — which have largely focused on parking, unfortunately — is they’re sick of complaining about parking in the village in the summer. This is not a new issue. I suspect that the frustration many village residents feel is a combination of intolerance for many of our visitors’ parking and driving behaviors (which to some have come to symbolize a broader sense of entitlement) AND the lack of readily available parking during the summer months.
This is a long-standing and common problem, particularly in coastal communities throughout New York, which was noted in a parking study paid for by NYMTC (Kordama Planning Consultants) and presented to the village around 2009. The consultants counted just under 700 on and off-street parking spaces, and noted the village could improve signage to direct drivers to parking. They also pointed out that parking around the high school was under-utilized in the summer. I bet not much has changed in the intervening years.
I’m one who walks to the village commercial district from my home during the summer months, only driving when I must. Many of us can do that, but of course there are many who can’t or, frankly, who simply won’t. Those few cantankerous characters left are also a part of what contributes to the quirk factor, by the way.
In my perfect little quirky world we’d have bike lanes on Front and Main streets with single-sided parking on those streets. While these issues best are addressed by our transportation subcommittee, we should consider directing traffic patterns with one way streets where feasible as well. And while we’re at it, to protect our fragile harbor and waterways: Let’s commit to better stormwater runoff systems and techniques, and less asphalt overall.
One point I am clear about: We’re creating policy for now and for our future. Development pressures are high and apparently only getting hotter.
Policies that help to curb and shape additional parking (more importantly, asphalt) are part of a much-larger picture to support Greenport’s future in our changing climate, landscape, and community.
Editor’s Note: The Greenport Village Board closed the series of public hearings on Oct. 10. The board also voted unanimously to approve a “negative declaration” under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, stating the proposed changes will not have a significant environmental impact. The board is next slated to meet at a 6 p.m. work session on Oct. 19, just before a six-month moratorium on development in those downtown zoning districts is expected to expire.
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