Representatives for Costco and some Five Towns residents strongly disagreed on how much traffic the proposed 22-pump gasoline station will generate at the warehouse franchise’s Lawrence store on Rockaway Turnpike.
A public form on the matter was held at the Five Towns Community Center last week.
Residents think that the gas station will create more traffic problems in an area that is already congested.
However, Daniel Baker, the Uniondale-based attorney representing Costco, said that traffic studies have shown there will not be a noticeable difference as the gas stations are members only.
Costco officials said they would meet with state representatives regarding possible traffic improvements focusing on Bay Boulevard, where the state’s Department of Transportation conducted a study.
John Harter, a traffic engineer from Atlantic Traffic and Design Engineers, hired by Costco, said that a majority of the gas station customers would all ready be shopping at Costco or members who residents of the area. Harter estimates the station would have 20 additional vehicles per hour than if there was no station.
Baker said that approximately 80 percent of the 433 Costco stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico have gas stations. Should the Town of Hempstead approve the station, it would the first one for Costco on Long Island.
The town needs to approve a requested parking variance as the store currently has 822 parking stalls and construction the station would reduce that to 735 spots, under the minimum the town requires for a store this size.
Roy Meserole represented the Inwood Civic Association at the meeting and believes adding gas pumps to Costco will worsen an already bad situation. “The community is well served by the currently operating gas stations in the neighborhood and this would add to the congestion problems,” he said.
Meserole added that though there were not many community members in attendance, the meeting was productive. “The opposition was there, though not in great numbers, but they spoke well for the thousands of people who commute through that congestion everyday,” he said.
Elisa Hinken, a longtime Inwood resident, decided to attend last week’s meeting to hear the presentation made by Baker before forming her opinion. Though she is a Costco patron, Hinken said adding gas pumps to its current Rockaway Turnpike location would add to the heavy traffic the roadway already faces. “The design of the roads does not properly serve any of the shopping areas on Rockaway Turnpike,” she said. “There are no right turning lanes, numerous bus stops, and along Route 878, there are no left lanes for turning. The traffic remedies are outside the scope that Costco can deal with, however, the mitigating circumstances cannot support the current traffic situation, let alone any additional traffic in the area.”
Hinken added that she was surprised to learn that Costco leases a portion of their parking spaces on a month-to-month basis from New York State Department of Transportation. “If the state decides to widen Route 878, a number of spaces they are banking on will be removed,” she said. “That could be a real game changer.”
Baker said he has had several discussions with the New York State Department of Transportation about the possible widening of Route 878. “The state has the project on the books but said it will not happen for the foreseeable future,” he said.
The meeting provided a chance to hear the concerns of the community, according to Baker. “We were aware that there were concerns so we thought it was a good opportunity to answer any questions, give more information than they have at this point and address anything we could,” he said. “Now we’re looking at the comments we received at the meeting and we’ll take it from there.”
Approvals are needed from both Hempstead’s town board and its Board of Zoning Appeals. There are no hearings scheduled at this time regarding Costco’s application.