The long-troubled parking lot on N. Main Street, adjacent to the Sayville Plaza, was opened to patrons and other residents on Thursday, Jun. 20. The lot was abruptly closed to vehicles in April.
The Town of Islip previously leased the property in order to provide extra parking spaces for Main Street businesses but stopped doing so over a year ago. An Islip Town spokesperson told this publication, earlier this year, that the town “didn’t feel comfortable” continuing the arrangement with the owner because of the property taxes that were owed to Suffolk County.
The county took the property’s tax deed last month, according to officials, and chose to open the parking lot to the public.
Bill Etts, who owns Marc Williams Furniture across the street from the parking lot, says the situation has “dramatically hurt” the local businesses. “Between the businesses and tenants [living above the shops], we had no parking,” he said.
Etts, a former chamber president, also commended the current president, Eileen Tyznar, for her efforts to get the parking lot open. “[Tyznar] should be given some sort of accolade for this,” he said.
When the parking lot was first sealed off, the chamber wrote in a letter that the county, should they assume control, had the option of transferring the property over to Islip Town. This, however, doesn’t seem to be happening.
A number of county officials were present while a construction crew removed the barriers that were used to seal off the parking lot. Suffolk County executive Steve Bellone says the lot’s importance, in regards to the community and local businesses, was made clear to him, and therefore the move had to happen “as soon as possible”.
Legislator Bill Lindsay says the decision should be a “big help” for residents and local shops, especially with the installation of sewers in the future. Lindsay explained there is still a six month remittance period where the former owner, Jeremiah Brown, could pay the back taxes and get the property back.
Jason Smagin, director of real estate for the county, says the property hasn’t been evaluated, yet, but Brown owed about $100,000 in property taxes over the course of five years.
Leg. Lindsay added that, should the county assume permanent control, the property could go to auction. “I don’t think it will come to that, though,” Lindsay said, adding that, in a situation like this, where the property is a clear “benefit to the community”, the county will maintain and keep it available to the public.
Jon Lien, the owner of Cornucopia Natural Foods, which is located next to the parking lot, says the situation with the parking lot has been a “nightmare”.
“We’ve held our own since everything started, but today is a glorious day,” he laughed.
Sam Nelovic, the owner of Texas Taco, says he’s “ecstatic” that the lot is open. “It’s caused a lot of aggravated customers and loss of business,” he said.