Updated: The county has waived the fee at Meshutt Beach. Find out more here.
Previous: A new Suffolk County law to impose a $4 parking fee starting at 5 p.m. each night at , and County beaches is being met by fierce opposition by members of the East End Supervisors and Mayors Association and local families who had previously enjoyed free nights at the beaches.
On Wednesday, the organization of leaders voted unanimously to oppose the parking fee, which was brought to a vote by County Executive Steve Bellone at the June 19 Suffolk County Legislative session in an effort to generate funds for the county. It was approved 12 to 5.
County Legis. Jay Schneiderman, who voted against the measure, said it is unfair not only to patrons of the beaches, but also to the concessionaires, which host live music at the beaches affected.
"Basically, the county has instituted a door charge," said Schneiderman, also noting that the fee only applies to three of the county's South Shore, East End beaches, not any other county beach.
"All the parks should be treated the same," said Schneiderman, who believes the fee was approved because only three legislator's areas are affected.
County Legislator Ed Romaine added that the vote took place without review by the parks committee. He said, “This last minute resolution nickel and dimes our county residents and should be set aside."
The mayors of both Westhampton Beach and West Hampton Dunes are also crying foul.
On Thursday, Gary Vegliante, the mayor of West Hampton Dunes in a statement said, “Imposing fees at the last minute, without any public comment or review just as children are finishing with school and the summer is about to begin is unfortunate.”
And Westhampton Beach Mayor Conrad Teller said, "Many families and visitors take advantage of the beaches during ‘twilight’ hours after work to relax from the workday. These fees will undoubtedly impose financial burdens for East End families and residents who should have the right to enjoy some of the recreation opportunities the County has to offer without being charged every time you want to do something.”
Schneiderman is urges residents to speak out and let the county know that they oppose the new fee and in the meantime, he said, he is working to try to find a compromise, which may include, legislation that offers half-price parking fees between the hours 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., which he believes will draw more people to the beach.
Currently, there is a $15 parking fee at the beaches, $8 with a Suffolk County Green Key. Those fees are up from last year where the fees were $12 without a Green Key and $5 for residents with a Green Key.
Suffolk County Parks Commissioner Greg Dawson argued in favor of the $4 twilight parking fee, saying that the money is needed to help defray the costs of running the beaches.
"Beaches and parks are expensive to run," said Dawson. "We have lifeguard to pay, maintenance, park police."
Last year, Dawson said parking fees raised $813,000 at Smith Point, with nearly 391,000 visitors; $118 thousand at Cupsogue where there were about 248,000 visitors and 79,000 at Meshutt which drew in 32,000 visitors.
Dawson estimates that the new $4 fee will generate an additional $90,000 for the county parks department; however, is considering dropping the $4 fee at Meshutt.
"We are in talks about that," he said.
What do you think of the $4 parking fee? Post a comment below or respond to the poll.
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