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Survey says public wants parklets to return in Greenport this summer

As vaccines become available to more adults and economic reopening continues, some are looking forward to a “normal” summer.

“There’s a strong light at the end of the tunnel,” said Greenport Business Improvement District president Richard Vandenburgh during a village board meeting Thursday.

But despite that optimism, Mr. Vandenburgh isn’t sure how that will play out in Greenport, especially if indoor dining isn’t restored to full capacity.

During Thursday’s meeting, the BID formally requested the village board to consider reinstating parklets from May 28 to September 30.

“Last year was an incredibly scary, uncertain year for our businesses,” he said, explaining that the parklets were a lifeline for businesses at the height of the pandemic.

The parklets converted 51 curbside parking spaces with seating and greenery at a time where demand for outdoor public spaces was at an all-time high.

According to Mr. Vandenburgh, the BID received 900 responses from residents, business owners and out-of-town visitors for a survey on the parklets that found eight out of ten people want to see them return in 2021.

Of the 900 respondents, 778 , or 86% of respondents, said the parklets created a lively and vibrant atmosphere in the heart of the village and 497 people — 71% of those surveyed — reported having no difficulty finding parking.

Mr. Vandenburgh also said Greenport was cited in a yet-to-be-released study conducted by the Rauch Foundation that examined the impact of COVID-19 on 30 downtown areas across Long Island. The village, he said, was the only one to see an economic uptick in the second half of the year. “They attribute that specifically to the fact that there was leadership, vision and execution on the parklets,” he said, urging the board to continue the “forward vision” and also agreeing to work with the fire department to resolve safety concerns.

Last year, the decision to enable parklets throughout the village was tied to an emergency measure granted by the state Department of Transportation in conjunction with the health department and state Liquor Authority.

Village officials said Thursday that there hasn’t been clear guidance from the DOT for this year.

“We can only do what the state allows us to do,” said village attorney Joseph Prokop.

Trustee Peter Clarke said he’d like to discuss the issue at length, but pointed out that there are just two work sessions and two regular meetings before Memorial Day.

“The results of the survey are compelling, the uncertainty of the pandemic is compelling and yet there are certain things that I would definitely try and alter this year versus last year in the implementation,” he said.