Greenport Village mayor George Hubbard Jr. said hundreds of thousands of dollars in unused grant money could be used to redesign Wiggins Street to help alleviate traffic congestion caused by the North Ferry.
The $350,000 in federal grant money had originally been earmarked for a project to put a ferry terminal at Mitchell Park more than a decade ago, Mr. Hubbard said during Thursday’s Village work session meeting.
“This is money the village has not been able to take advantage of for 12 years,” Mr. Hubbard said. “It’s there, but if there is no board consensus on it then I can’t go anywhere with it.”
In order to redesign Wiggins Street, which was discussed at a public hearing this spring, the village would need to conduct an engineering study on the area, he said. That study could cost anywhere between $200,000 and $300,000, he said, but noted that the money would quickly be reimbursed through the state.
Trustee Mary Bess Phillips said she would like to see that money be used for other areas in the village. However, Mr. Hubbard said that the village tried to find a way to do that, but the money can only be used for intermodal purposes.
“It’s a lot to digest,” Trustee Doug Roberts said.
The board members expressed concern about laying out the money for the engineering study. Mr. Hubbard stressed that if the village does not use the grant money, the state may eventually give it to someone else.
“The money is there, it is waiting for the taking,” Mr. Hubbard said.
The board may vote on it next week.
Ms. Phillips proposed a solution to the traffic problem on Main Road between Bay and Central Avenue by making that stretch of road one way.
She described an experience she had earlier in the day on Thursday when a taxi was blocking the road and a tractor trailer was also headed down Main Road. She said it could have been a dangerous situation if the driver of the trailer had been less cautious.
“I’m just asking we start the discussion on it,” she said.
She added that she would like to work with the village engineer on it to explore options, noting that making the street a one-way may not work and it is just a suggestion.
“I’m just throwing it out there to see how everybody feels,” she said.
Limiting parking on one side of the street would not be a viable option, she said, because the village cannot afford to lose more parking.
The one-way proposal suggestion met some opposition from members of the public who attended the meeting.
“To me, you’re not making it any safer,” said Peter Harris, the former Highway Superintendent for Southold Town. “Making it one way is just not going to work.”
Mr. Harris suggested widening the road one foot on each side rather than rerouting traffic onto Carpenter Street, which would be the result.
Mr. Harris noted that Carpenter Street is also a very narrow road and said it would be better to do away with east side parking in that designated area on Main Road.
Ms. Phillips said she understands Mr. Harris’ points, but thinks something needs to be done.
“I feel it’s important,” she said.
Mr. Roberts discussed a plan on how to tackle the short-term rental issue that has been a hot topic for the village.
“We are severely lacking data on [short term rentals] because it is such a new phenomenon,” Mr. Roberts said.
After researching how short-term rentals work in various places, he suggested surveys could be conducted to explore why renters choose to stay in Greenport.
He said the survey would give the village an idea of the behavior and the economic tendencies of those who rent.
Greenport resident John Winkler argued afterward that the village does not need a survey to understand why people are coming to Greenport.
“They’re coming out here because they are families with young kids and can only rent for a few days,” he said. “They’re spending their money at the restaurants, the antique shops, the clothing shops.”
Mr. Winkler said he commends the trustees for attempting to come up with a simple way to handle the rental issue, but he believes the owner of the home needs to be there when they are renting. He said that way the owner can make sure the renters are not being disruptive.
“It really makes a difference,” he said.
Longtime Greenport resident Arthur Tasker agreed that owner-occupancy in a short-term rental is “key.”
“We need to have a comprehensive look at rentals in Greenport,” Mr. Tasker said. He added that he thinks Mr. Roberts did a good job at gathering data, but he says the main issue is that the village needs to be consistent with rental codes and regulations.
Photo caption: The Greenport Village Board at Thursday’s work session. (Credit: Krysten Massa)