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Suffolk passes law for veteran parking spots

COURTESY PHOTO

COURTESY PHOTO

The Suffolk County Legislature has passed a bill designed to make life easier for veterans: designated parking spots at all county buildings.

Proposed earlier this year, the measure passed unanimously at the Legislature’s general meeting June 21 and now awaits Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s signature.

Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma), who sponsored the legislation, said that in return for the sacrifices made by our troops, this would be a way to show respect for veterans. It also seemed fitting, he said, because Suffolk County has the most veterans in New York State.

“They have handicapped parking and clean-pass parking,” Mr. Muratore said. “Why not have veterans parking so they don’t have to walk so far?”

Despite the 18-0 vote in its favor, some veterans were unaware of the bill — or don’t support it.
Councilman Jim Colligan, A Vietnam veteran, hadn’t heard about the legislation until he was contacted by the Reporter for comment.

“Any time people respect and acknowledge someone’s military service, it’s a good thing,” Mr. Colligan said. “But I wouldn’t use it. I tend to park a little further way from entrances so older people or disabled people don’t have to walk so far. It’s a nice gesture, though, especially for those who are still struggling with the aftermath of their service, to get the recognition.”

Dentist Dr. Frank Kestler, a veteran of Afghanistan whose practice is on North Ferry Road, complimented the Suffolk County Veterans Services Agency as “strong advocates for all Suffolk County veterans. In my opinion, the easy part was passing the legislation to reserve two parking spots for veterans … the tougher part will be getting veterans to use these parking spots, as most veterans are very humble. My hope is that some veterans will make use of these well-deserved parking spots.”

Craig Richter, veteran and commander of the Greenport American Legion post said he disagreed with the legislation.

“I can walk,” he said. “If I was a veteran with disabilities, I could park in handicapped spots. We don’t need this.”

Don Wagner, a veteran from the Southold American Legion post, agreed that a healthy veteran is capable of finding a parking spot and walking.

A similar measure was enacted in 2014 in the Town of Brookhaven, where a parking spot in front of Town Hall was designated for veterans who had earned Purple Hearts. That program’s success influenced the creation of this bill, according to Mr. Muratore.

The pending law states that two parking spaces in each of the 110 county parking lots with 30 or more spots will be reserved for veterans. Veterans will need to have proof of their status displayed on their vehicle in some way.

According to Robert Martinez, Mr. Muratore’s chief of staff, veterans will receive ID cards, similar to those used at colleges, to display in their windshields.

The measure won’t affect taxpayers because the necessary funds are in the existing budget, officials said.

If Mr. Bellone signs the legislation, the departments of public works and veteran affairs, as well as the parks department, will begin implementing it countywide.

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