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Medical Center Parking Permit Fees Draw Criticism

Some Say They Will No Longer Dine, Shop in GC

Several employers and many of their employees who work at the Garden City Medical Center located at 520 Franklin Avenue are angered over a newly instituted $150 parking permit fee.

Many of these employees shop and grab lunch along 7th Street. But because they now have to pay the village $150 for parking, some say they will no longer dine or shop in the village.

E. Michael Cummings, a periodontist at 520 Franklin Avenue, was shocked and disappointed when he received Village Clerk Brian Ridgway’s letter regarding the parking permit fees. Cummings employs nine part-time workers. He is the only full-time employee in his office.

In an Oct. 13 letter to Ridgway, Cummings stated: “I will have to purchase a total of ten annual parking permits for my office, an increase in $1,500, and an increase in my annual overhead for the coming year in the same amount. In addition to this outrageous increase in fees, and despite the fact that my office never utilizes more than four spaces daily, I can never be guaranteed the availability of a spot due to the inadequacy of the parking lot’s size and its number of spaces in permit parking.

“I find this an egregious insult to small business on the part of the Village of Garden City, especially at a time of economic hardship and increased unemployment ... My patients will not appreciate having the increase in fees passed on to them, many of whom reside in the Village of Garden City,” Cummings continued in the Oct. 13 letter.

Dr. Frank DeMento, a dermatologist who also works out of 520 Franklin, stated in a Sept. 30 letter to Mayor Robert Rothschild that Parking Field 5 is used by parishioners of St. Joseph’s Church, patrons of the post office and the postal employees themselves, employees who work at 520 Franklin and patients as well. “The postal employees use this lot instead of the parking lot behind the post office or the parking lot on 7th Street, causing a severe shortage of patient parking spaces in Lot 5,” DeMento stated.

Many of DeMento’s patients are elderly and/or have disabilities, which, he said, hinders them from navigating the lot. “They have difficulty finding a parking space in the designated areas, resulting in parking violations, frustration and agitation and have resulted in several auto accidents. We have had patients leave our practice because of these parking problems,” DeMento wrote.

Carmine Vacchio, a physician’s assistant in Dr. DeMento’s office, addressed trustees at the Oct. 15 board meeting. “Even though this may seem like a small amount, $150 per vehicle, I feel that there are some employees that work in that building that $150 will impose a great burden on them. A lot of the employees are part-time workers. I think that right now, with this economic climate that we have, to impose a $150 fee for parking when people are hardly even keeping their jobs seems difficult.”

Vacchio requested trustees re-evaluate the fee amount. “I don’t think it’s something that should be out of the question,” he said, “but maybe for this year, at least, maybe postponed.”

Deputy Mayor Don Brudie reminded Vacchio that residents of the village have to pay $150 for parking at the train station. “To be able to park and walk into your work place … That’s a pretty nice convenience. The other alternative is that you walk a block and a half. I don’t think that’s asking too much.”

Both medical building employers and employees do have access to free parking in the village’s Parking Field #6E, located off 7th Street, behind the Garden City Toll Lodge. The area within this field (on the other side of the Long Island Rail Road tracks) is called the “Wye Parking Lot,” which offers free parking.

Parking Lot 5 has a total of 193 spots, 96 of which are by permit only, 93 have two-hour restrictions and four are handicapped spots.

Julie Stoller, who works in the building, told trustees that she and many of her colleagues will not purchase a permit. “There are a lot of people that work there. There’s only 96 spots. So now if I pay $150 for my parking permit, half the time I’ve got to drive around the parking lot for a half hour before I even get a spot. And it’s not even always everybody that works there. It’s patients and it’s the church. So now I pay this money to get a spot and I come sometimes a little later, I come in at 10 o’clock and work later, I don’t have a spot now. So what happens?”

Stoller said she has no problem walking from the “Wye” lot but she wants a guarantee that if she does opt to purchase a permit she’ll get a spot.

There is no guarantee.

“Then me and most of the people I work with aren’t going to pay it. I will say that right now,” Stoller said.

“And we knew that when we put it into place,” Mayor Rothschild admitted.

It seemed unfair to Vacchio that at the very same meeting he complained about his new parking fee, trustees approved a request by the Irish American Society of Nassau Suffolk & Queens, Inc. to hold its annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in the village, a parade estimated to cost Garden City $6,000.

Trustee Nick Episcopia thought it only fair to charge the Society since numerous fees are now being levied on Garden City’s residents.

The majority of his colleagues, however, disagreed.

“All parades, festivals are an asset to this village and its residents,” Trustee Dennis Donnelly, board liaison to the village’s business community, said. “If we impose a fee on one then we have to impose a fee on everyone.” Donnelly was not, however, against asking the Society for a contribution, which is what the New York Racing Association does for the annual Belmont parade and festival.

Mayor Rothschild, who was in favor of charging the Society, made a motion to impose a $6,000 fee. That was shot down with only Mayor Rothschild and Trustee Episcopia voting in favor of it.

Then Trustee Episcopia made a motion to ask for a $4,000 donation from the Society to overcome the majority of the cost. “These are very bad times,” he said. “We’re charging citizens for things. Someone has to pay here.”

This too, though, was shot down with only Mayor Rothschild and Trustee Episcopia voting in favor of it.

The parade was eventually approved by a majority vote to be held Sunday, March 7, 2010 with Garden City footing the bill.

 “If we cut everything out of this village, this village would be lifeless,” Trustee Brudie said. “It’s not in the best interest of the village and from a community standpoint, it’s very embarrassing.”

“It’s a balance and unfortunately certain decisions had to be made,” Mayor Rothschild added. “We didn’t want to do it but the economy is the reason why we did it … It’s a difficult balance.”

Owners of the Garden City Medical Center building, who are physicians themselves, have asked trustees to consider “un-designating” the 96 permit parking spaces as spaces that can be available to the general public without charge, subject to a four-hour restriction.

In a letter sent to Mayor Rothschild and the board, Anthony Guardino of Farrell Fritz, P.C., who represents the medical building’s owners, stated: “While the owners of the GCMC feel that the newly imposed employee parking license fee places their medical building at a great disadvantage in the marketplace, and are prepared to protect the value and desirability of their building by any and all means, including litigation, if necessary, they would prefer to work with the village to find an amicable solution to this issue.”