Can meters solve city’s parking woes?


The City of Long Beach had parking meters in the 1960s, but they weren’t very popular, and the money, some said, kept disappearing from the machines.

With parking even more of a headache now, city officials are considering installing meters again, at least in the central business district. The parking garage near the Long Island Rail Road station already has meters.

Thursday night, after press time, the City Council was to hold a work session to discuss the matter and hear from a “low-bidder” parking meter company whether the project was feasible.

City spokesman John McNally declined to comment before the work session was held. He did say the city might hold a public hearing on meters, but usually a public hearing is triggered by a potential change in a city ordinance.

Roy Lester, who was elected to the council in November and has lived in Long Beach most of his life, said he remembered parking meters in the 1960s and early ’70s. He said meters would boost city revenues, but added that he would wait to hear more before deciding whether they should be brought back.

“The jury is out right now,” Lester said.

Parking has been difficult in Long Beach for decades, and the city has studied ways to deal with it in the past. In the early 2000s, the city spent $25,000 to study installing multi-space parking meters in commercial areas and requiring off-street bicycle parking for all new developments. Nothing came of it.

Parking in the central business district is easy compared with the jam-packed West End. Many homes are on 30-by-60-foot lots, and narrow streets allow parking only on one side. On weekends, West End residents must compete with visitors who visit the area’s trendy restaurants and bars. But at the moment, the city is looking into meters in the central business district only.

Opinions on the meter issue vary.

Ian Danby, the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce treasurer, said he liked the idea of meters, both because they would bring in needed revenue for the city and help ease parking congestion. He said he hoped the city would make use of modern technology, including apps, instead of coins, as payment for the meters.

Nearby municipalities, including Rockville Centre, have had parking meters for decades. Village spokeswoman Julie Grilli said that in recent years, parking meters have not been in use after 6 p.m., to allow for more shopping and dining out.

“That did help,” Grilli said. “There was an increase” in shoppers and diners.

Harvey Weisenberg, a former state assemblyman from Long Beach, recalled when meters were in use. “People didn’t like them,” he said, adding that he doubted they would be more popular today.

But Alan Schwartz, a longtime city resident and the owner of Laurel Tailors and Dry Cleaners, said he sees meters as potentially good for Long Beach.

“I’m a big advocate for that,” Schwartz said. “It makes space for customers. If I have to walk a block to my store, that’s OK.”