Commuting

Closure of Hicksville parking garage worries residents with short memories

By Jen Cooper

The alarm goes off at 4 a.m. for Barry Smuckler to catch the 6:11 a.m. train to Manhattan from the Hicksville train station. Smuckler is a Plainview resident that works as a state auditor in the city.

The Hicksville train station parking garage will be closing for repairs over the summer and Smuckler anticipates that the closure will have him awake at least ten minutes earlier to get to work at 7 a.m.

“They should have monitored the construction as it was being done to prevent this from happening,” Smuckler said. “ It’s completely ridiculous. It’s a failure of government officials who were supposed to monitor this.”

Smuckler is one of many commuters that are frustrated by the closure of the parking garage and the financial burden taxpayers will share to correct the mistake.

The parking garage, located at the corner of Duffy Avenue and Newbridge Road, is 7 years old. Debris from the ceiling damage that caused the parking structure closure appeared over a year ago, according to residents that use the garage.

“If they didn’t catch the cracks, the garage would have collapsed,” Shinu Chacko, a Plainview residentand electrical engineer, said. “It would be a long time before a garage like that wore down. It can go 40 or 50 years if you provide proper maintenance to it.”

The garage is expected to close from July to September for the necessary repairs to the cracks in the ceiling.

“The parking structure located on Duffy Avenue in Hicksville will temporarily close this summer for needed repairs and maintenance,” Brian Nevin, spokesperson for the Town of Oyster Bay, said in an email. “This is being done in the most efficient way possible at a time where the garage is least utilized. The Town is working quickly to minimize the impact of the garage’s temporary closure, provide alternative parking and shuttle service for residents and hold the contractors responsible for the cost of repairs.”

Parking spaces are already limited as the Town of Oyster Bay issues over 41,000 parking permits for less than 7,000 spaces at the train station.

Town board members are looking for parking lots for commuters to take a  shuttle from. One possible place is the Broadway Mall, just over a mile away.

“I was affected by the closure last time it happened when I used to work in the city years ago and it was horrible,” Tina Kaniklas, an elementary school teacher from Hicksville said. “This happened years ago when they first built the structure and it was closed a year and a half and we had to park at Broadway.”

Earlier this year, the Town of Oyster Bay approved a 400 percent price increase for the two-year parking permits from 20 dollars to 100 dollars.

The price increase for the new spots isn’t enough to cover the $6.8 million going towards the repairs of the structure. The original construction companies, Peter Scalamandre and Sons and Sidney B. Bowne and Son, are being sued by the town for the cost of the repairs.

The town hopes the money from the litigation will go towards repaying the $6.8 million in bonds, but some residents are doubtful that the litigation will amount to anything.

“When the parking lot was built a little over six years ago, they spent millions and millions of dollars with firms that were very politically connected to the Nassau County Republican Party,” Bob Freier, spokesperson for the Town of Oyster Bay Democrats and resident of Woodbury said.  “Specifically elected politicians in the Town of Oyster Bay, primarily John Venditto but they gave to pretty much everyone on the board there. ”

Former Town Supervisor John Venditto was indicted in 2017 for federal corruption charges involving Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and his wife.

Residents are still concerned about the relationship between the contractors and the Town Board because of the corruption charges surrounding Venditto.

“One of the companies doing the repair work is D&B Engineering and Architects and they’re being investigated for illegal contributions tying them to work done in the city,” Freier said. D&B was indicted in Manhattan for bribery and business fraud earlier this month.

Commissioner of the Department of Public Works for the Town of Oyster Bay Richard Lenz used to be a partner at D&B Engineering and Architects.

Former Public Works Commissioner Frank Antetomaso from the late 70s and 80s was indicted for conspiracy with John Venditto last year. Antetomaso left his government job to become a partner at Sidney B. Bowne & Son which is one of the construction companies that rebuilt the Hicksville parking garage. 

The town added a new Board of Ethics to increase transparency after the scandal, but the Board of Ethics doesn’t release any information to the public.

“Advisory opinions of the Board of Ethics are confidential,” Steven Leventhal, legal counsel to the Town of Oyster Bay Board of Ethics, said in an email. “The confidentiality of advisory opinions encourages Town officers and employees to seek ethics advice and thereby helps to promote ethical conduct by Town officers and employees.

Other commuters are more concerned about the possible effect this could have on the length of their commute.

“It’s such a brand new parking lot and there are structures a lot older than that and they still have no issues like this one,” Joshua Romoff, resident of Hicksville and commuter to the city said. “My main concern is if the bus shuttles provided by the town from the Broadway Mall to the train station run on time or sync with the train times.”

The Hicksville train station is on the main line of the LIRR and branches off to the Ronkonkoma line and the Port Jefferson line. Like many other LIRR stations, the Hicksville train station itself is under construction.

The added time to the commute doesn’t have a negative effect on all residents, though.

“This is one time where me working for my family could be a good thing because if I’m later than usual, there’s nothing I can do,” Corey Appleman, resident of Hicksville and commuter to the city said. “Thank God I don’t have any debris or scratches on my car. This is definitely a major screw up.”