Last May, when COVID-19 and executive orders from Gov. Andrew Cuomo had severely impacted businesses in Greenport, an idea was floated to allow “parklets” along the north edge of Front Street and on Main Street so that businesses could set up tables and displays and bring some of their customers back.
The village sought approval from the state Department of Transportation, which owns the road. When that approval was granted, the parklets were constructed — 9,000 square feet of additional business space outside. A total of 51 parking spaces were lost because of the parklets.
“The parklets were our saviors,” said Rich Vandenburgh, the president of the village’s Business Improvement District and a co-owner of Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. “It has been phenomenal. Several businesses had the best year they ever had. Others say they would not have survived the season without this. There has been a sea change of opinion on this, and they worked.”
Now, the BID is asking the village for permission to allow the parklets to stay in place past the deadline of Nov. 30 set by the state.
“We need this to continue, and we are asking to go to the end of the year,” Mr. Vandenburgh said. “This is very important for us.
“But I am getting the sense the village may not be for this. I hope we can work together to find a solution.”
While the village board has yet to take up the issue, some officials have concerns about the one-month extension. “The BID has asked us for this, but my concerns are about snowfall,” said Paul J. Pallas, the village administrator. “Operationally, that is my biggest concern. Typically, December is not a snowy month, but it could happen. My only concern is how we would clear the road and where would we put the snow with the parklets in place? But I can’t speak for the board.”
Beyond considering whether to allow them to stay to the end of the year, Mr. Pallas said the parklets are a success.
“They have helped businesses sustain themselves with the restrictions in place,” he added. “My original concern was with parking, but that was not as much of a burden as I had originally thought.”
He said the earliest the board could consider it is at the work session scheduled for November 19. And, beyond that, he pointed out, the final decision on whether to extend the deadline to the end of the year will be made by the state DOT.
“It’s their road,” he said.
Trustee Mary Bess Phillips said the BID’s request was just emailed to the village on Friday “and I am sure for the next week or so the rest of us will think about it and talk to the mayor about it. The DOT will make the ultimate decision.”
While saying she had some concerns about extending the parklets for another month, she said, “I would also like to see the businesses work towards a marketing scheme for takeout and delivery” that could help them in the winter months, when outside seating would be particularly unattractive.
For his part, Village Mayor George Hubbard said, “First, we have to get permission from the state. They own the road.”
“Our contract with the state expires at the end of November,” he added. “If the state says it’s fine, I will be fine with it. But I don’t know about the rest of the board.”