Of all the dumb things that the newest members of the East Hampton Village Board have thought of so far in their term, reducing Newtown Lane to one lane eastbound, that is, toward Main Street, may be the topper. On the other hand, maybe it was slyly intentional and of a piece.
After a 3-to-2 vote on Friday, the village will eliminate parallel parking on both sides of Newtown Lane in the business district. Instead, cars will have to park diagonally, as in parts of downtown Sag Harbor and Southampton Villages. Concerns about safety as drivers back up to get out of the spaces that the mayor snarked were “scare tactics” notwithstanding, making Newtown Lane a single lane in that direction will back up traffic, probably all the way to the train tracks, if not well beyond.
The village is in for gridlock nightmare, not only on Newtown Lane, but in the Reutershan Parking Lot, where additional lanes will be made one-way to accommodate more diagonal parking. Think as well about the parents coming down Newtown Lane after picking their kids up from after-school stuff after work; they’re not there to find parking, they’re just trying to get home at the end of the day.
Already, drivers have long waits to make a left from Newtown Lane onto Main Street, and many of them then look to make another left onto North Main. If the tie-up we anticipate as a result is as bad as we expect, then many drivers will begin to seek other ways to reach Three Mile Harbor Road and Springs-Fireplace Road. There will be a ripple effect, with more vehicles along the village lanes and already backed up Cedar Street and Oakview Highway. Drivers looking to make a right at Newtown and Main will instead dart through the Reutershan Parking Lot or avoid the business area altogether, no easy task, depending on where they’re coming from. An engineer hired by the village said that the right-turn lane was “not heavily used,” but even if he was being fair, that is by no means the only factor that should have been considered. No formal study of vehicle movement was done. Instead, the board majority simply threw the idea at the wall like a piece of cooked spaghetti.
So if the decision is not plain dumb, then why would the mayor and his pals see this as a good thing? Two possibilities come to mind: One, greater traffic on the business district’s outlying streets might make commercial redevelopment an attractive option for some landlords. And another: Shunting worker traffic and delivery trucks out of sight off Newtown Lane could add to the sense of exclusivity that the mayor seems to believe the village’s luxury shop owners desire.
Whatever the truth, the change will be a rude in-your-face to those who live and work outside the village and, at the same time, a nuisance for many village’s residents already overburdened by noise and traffic. And for what? The board majority wants Newtown Lane restaurants — of which there are now three between Park Place and Main — more room for outdoor seating. That makes us wonder what the mayor knows that he is not saying. Or maybe he has a case of Sag Harbor envy.
This is just a really bad idea.