Residents and business owners were shocked two weeks ago when, without notice, county workers started repainting the lines on Atlantic Avenue by the new Stop & Shop, creating turn lanes, and removing side-street parking.
Stop & Shop’s contractors, with permits from the county, redrew the lines to add both north- and south-bound turning lanes on Atlantic for the supermarket. To do so, they expanded traffic lanes and turned the parking lanes on Atlantic Avenue into traffic lanes. All of this was done without any notification of area residents or business owners.
The changes were the main topic at a town hall meeting hosted by Town of Hempstead Councilman Anthony Santino at Oceanside Middle School on May 11.
“The change in the traffic pattern, the various changes, were implemented by Nassau County,” said Santino. “Some of the plans, when they implemented them, created a great deal of consternation over the last week or so to the neighborhood.”
The changes eliminated parking in front of homes and businesses on Atlantic Avenue, including four spaces in front of the First United Methodist Church of Oceanside. “I think what distresses me the most and a lot of my congregants, as well as people who use the building, which is well over 500 per week, is that we were not given a courtesy of a letter that these changes were going to take place,” said the Rev. Janet Porcher, the church’s pastor, at Santino’s meeting. “So it was a tremendous shock when we woke up one day and that happened.”
The reason no one was notified of the changes is because both the town and county thought it was the other governing body’s responsibility to notify residents about the changes.
“The town is responsible for any parking restrictions or any eliminations of parking,” said Mike Martino, spokesman for the county Department of Public Works. “They are to notify the public.
That is the town’s responsibility.”
“We inform residents when the town makes changes on town roads,” said town spokesman Mike Deery. “We had no knowledge of what they were going to do. We didn’t even know they were going to do it. So how would we [notify residents]?”
According to A. Thomas Levin, an attorney and the past president of both the Nassau County and New York State Bar Associations, the town is responsible for notifying residents of changes in parking regulation — putting up “No Parking” signs, for example. But in this case, since parking restrictions were not changed and the lines were simply redrawn, responsibility would fall to the county to notify residents, Levin explained, since Atlantic Avenue is a county road. However, he added, the county has no legal obligation to do so.
Even though Atlantic Avenue is a county road, Santino’s office tried to help residents when it began receiving calls. According to Santino, a sign that prohibited left turns onto Davison Street from Atlantic Avenue will be replaced with a stoplight with an arrow. Drivers will also now be allowed to make left turns onto Waverly Avenue when traveling west on Atlantic. There will also be a dedicated left-turn lane onto Clark Avenue.
Santino also said that due to the loss of parking on Atlantic, the town would remove signs on neighboring side streets that prohibited parking in the summer. They were installed when Camp DeBaun was still active but are no longer needed.
And according to Santino, due to the loss of parking, Stop & Shop agreed to let Methodist Church congregants use its parking lot on Sunday mornings.
“We knew the possibility of Stop & Shop coming,” Porcher said after the meeting. “The Town of Hempstead notified all the residents, including the church, and we went down to the town meeting and the planner was there, the architect was there, we saw the drawing and everything.
“My distress was that the county did not advise us that this was taking place,” she added. “It just happened.”