Discussion Continues Over Shortage of School Parking in Sag Harbor

Updated map of parking restrictions around Sag Harbor Schools. Map by Chris Lester
Updated map of parking restrictions around Sag Harbor Schools. Map by Chris Lester

By Christine Sampson

Overall demand for parking spaces in Sag Harbor School District parking lots outweighs supply by about 60 spaces, according to school administrators, who estimated this week the school district had relied on the streets surrounding its two schools for those spots plus many more for parents, students with cars, volunteers and other visitors.

New parking regulations adopted in December by the Sag Harbor Village trustees, which went into effect on April 17, have limited parking on several key streets surrounding Pierson Middle-High School and Sag Harbor Elementary School. Clinton Street, which runs adjacent to Sag Harbor Elementary School, is now a drop-off-only location.

School officials say the new rules have impacted parents, teachers and others, but say their hands are tied because the property they own is limited and the community shot down past attempts to add parking around the schools. Business owners nearby have also said they have been impacted.

The school board has since had discussions at its last three board meetings — on April 3, April 19 and April 24 — about parking and how the district might engage the village to help solving the problem.

“The pendulum, in my view, has swung way too far to one side. … It really is making it difficult for folks,” board member Susan Lamontagne said on April 24.

But elementary school principal Matt Malone said the changes have not been all bad.

“For fairness to the discussion,” he said on April 24, “on Clinton Street, while the parking poses problems in the morning, the drop-off coming off of Route 114 has been a lot smoother from my perspective. I would definitely attest to the fact that I believe this is safer on this street.”

Mr. Malone and Pierson principal Jeff Nichols had been tasked by school superintendent Katy Graves to count the number of spaces lost when the village axed parking on Clinton Street and Montauk Street and limited parking on Hamilton Street, Ackerly Street and Elizabeth Street. They, in turn, tapped security staff to help walk the roadways and estimate the spaces lost to the new rules, which they shared on April 24: two spots on Elizabeth, eight on Clinton, ten on Ackerly, 29 on Montauk and 22 on Hamilton, for a total of 71 spaces.

“It sounds like we went from a bad situation to a really bad situation in terms of providing safe, local parking for our staff and our families,” school board member Chris Tice said.

On April 19, board vice president Tommy John Schiavoni said he would like the village to go one step further: reconsider parking on the streets directly adjacent to the schools, such as Jermain Avenue and Division Street.

“I know there are issues with the neighbors, but I don’t think the neighbors want Pierson to put up more parking lots,” Mr. Schiavoni said. “I really hope the village works with us on this. I think there are places on those streets where parking can be recouped, not just for us but for members of the community.”

He said he had tallied up the number of “no parking” signs in the vicinity of Pierson alone, and came up with 102 signs.

“To completely ban parking within several blocks of our institution is difficult. The signs don’t look great,” Mr. Schiavoni said. “But again, we can do things along with the village and with the neighbors. We want to be mindful of the neighbors to come up with a plan for parking.”

Sandi Kruel, who has served four terms on the board, brought up the district’s two efforts over the last several years to add parking — two efforts that were ultimately shot down.

Shortly after a parking plan was approved as part of the November 2013 bond referendum, in the spring of 2014, a group of neighbors and environmental activists convinced a majority of the school board to eliminate part of the plan that would have lined up more spaces on Jermain Avenue. That board vote was 5-2 in favor of abandoning the plan that voters had already approved. And some years prior to that, voters turned down a proposition to purchase two properties next to Pierson that would have allowed for more parking, she said.

“It’s not that we didn’t try. We have tried to produce it,” Ms. Kruel said on April 19. “Now we sit down and say this is what we’ve done, and where can we meet in the middle.”

While the school board suggested inviting Sag Harbor Village mayor Sandra Schroeder to Monday’s meeting for an open discussion on the issue, with no village officials at the session, board president Diana Kolhoff suggested it may have been too short notice.

The school board decided Monday to send another invitation to the village board to hold a joint workshop, and agreed to send Mr. Schiavoni, who is the board’s liaison to the village government, to the trustees’ next meeting on May 9.