The village Board of Zoning Appeals’ recent decision not to allow Bonefish Grill to open for lunch on weekdays highlights, once again, one of Rockville Centre’s most intractable problems: parking.
We agree with the zoning board’s decision. Allowing the restaurant to open for lunch would have put too much strain on a municipal parking field that is already filled to capacity. Adding more cars to the lot would have been impossible.
But parking should not have been the deciding factor in determining Bonefish’s hours. It is now going to be much harder for its parent company — which invested more than $1 million in the renovations of a decrepit movie theater, turning it into a beautiful new restaurant — to make money when the eatery is open only in the evenings and on weekends.
One of the biggest complaints people have about shopping or going out for drinks or dinner in Rockville Centre is the parking. Imagine how many more people would patronize village stores if they didn’t have to worry about spending a half hour trolling for a parking space. Imagine the new businesses that would be attracted to the downtown area if they knew their customers would have easy access to parking.
At the village board meeting on Monday, Mayor Francis X. Murray announced that the village would be issuing requests for proposals for the redesign of two village parking lots: Lot 4 (behind Churchill’s) and Lot 9 (behind El Mariachi).
The village has spent millions of dollars over the years repairing roads and maintaining the existing parking fields. While that is an important village function, it could do more. A one-time bond could fund the construction of a multi-story parking structure downtown. Many residents balk at the idea, but what other options remain? Built above an existing lot, a parking structure could double or triple the available parking in that area. And gone are the days when expanding parking meant erecting a Brutalist monstrosity in your downtown.
The village already has the plans. Earlier this year, Rockville Centre was the beneficiary of a design challenge sponsored by the Long Island Index. An architectural firm designed three parking structures for the village’s downtown that would add hundreds of spaces. Even just one, which Murray said he was in favor of, would be a huge boon to the area.
The mayor says he is waiting to see whether the village can secure grant money and other outside funding to build one of the structures. It’s admirable that he doesn’t want to spend taxpayer money on it, and we commend him for bringing the issue back to back to the fore. But we encourage him to pursue the project regardless of funding. It’s something that needs to be dealt with sooner rather than later.
Parking is a perennial issue. But if one or more of the proposed parking structures were built, it could be a problem of the past.