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  • The future of parking on Long Island

    View of a parking structure designed for Rockville Centre village.
    On Long Island, we have a love-hate affair with parking. That’s especially true when it comes to our downtown areas. We love it when we can find a spot close to our favorite restaurant, we complain bitterly when we have to circle endlessly looking for a place, but we absolutely hate the above-ground garages that would give us the parking we crave.

    What parking could look like in the future was the topic Thursday morning at Adelphi University, where the Long Island Index showcased designs produced by four architectural firms as part of a challenge to transform how we think about parking — and more specifically, parking structures — in our downtown areas.

    Index officials point out there are more than 4,000 acres of parking lots in and around Long Island’s downtowns. Clearly, there is a lot of potential for re-imagination. There also is a need to rethink how we use these spaces as we continue the process of building the downtowns of tomorrow — downtowns that take advantage of their proximity to train stations and that serve as magnets for the young and anyone seeking a vibrant lifestyle.

    The Index, a group that issues reports on Long Island issues, paired the architectural firms with four villages or hamlets — Westbury, Rockville Centre, Patchogue and Ronkonkoma — whose leaders had expressed interest in innovative parking solutions.

    Some quick impressions off the morning’s presentations:
    • The Westbury plan was the most impressive, and the most intriguing. The design from LTL Architects increases the number of parking spots while adding commercial and office space as well as open space, all of it wrapped in a very attractive design. Terraced housing perches dramatically on top of the structure, and walkways underneath are covered with protective solar panels that could feed electricity to car-charging stations in the garage.
    • The Ronkonkoma proposal was confusing, primarily because it seemed to be produced in a vacuum. It was designed for the Islip side of the Ronkonkoma train station, but presenters from Roger Sherman Architecture + Urban Design made no mention of the massive Ronkonkoma Hub project on the other side of the tracks. One would have thought there would have been some attempt to integrate the two, or explain how they might work together.
    • The Patchogue proposal was modest, which was exactly what Mayor Paul Pontieri and his group requested. The parking deck pitched for the village adds some spots, but the more important piece was some state-of-the-art real-time signage that directs people to lots that have open spaces. Right now, some lots are vastly under-used. The design team from dub Studios says good parking management would save 150,000 vehicle miles annually by reducing the amount of time people spend circling through Patchogue’s lots.
    • The plan for Rockville Centre also was a winner, especially in terms of aesthetics. The use of large graceful arches by Utile, Inc. Architecture + Planning was impressive and it was smart to have the ground levels of the three structures serve dual purposes: parking spaces during the week, places in which to host festivals, farmers’ markets and the like on the weekends. The design also included housing, retail and tennis courts.

    Long Island Index officials hope the challenge starts a conversation about parking all across Long Island. We’ll be coming back to this later. But for now, consider the conversation joined.

    A view of part of the parking structures designed for Westbury village.

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