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In Attempt To Boost Economy, Long Island Town Tries Free Downtown Valet Parking

HUNTINGTON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- The frustrating hunt for a place to park can turn shoppers off. But one local town is taking a cue from the high-end hotels and restaurants.

On Friday it started a valet parking service for free, and as CBS 2's Carolyn Gusoff reported, the idea could come one day to a village near you.

It's common complaint in suburban villages. The hunt for parking frays nerves and hurts business.

"The parking is terrible. You can never find a parking spot," one driver told Gusoff on Friday.

"I have done that twice around the block, can't get a spot, we're going home," said Irene Klein of Huntington.

But now the town of Huntington is going the route of shopping meccas like Palm Beach and Beverly Hills, offering valet parking.

"I can't believe it," one driver said.

The pilot program will increase capacity in one lot by 40 percent. It'll be offered Fridays and Saturdays, but could grow, town officials said.

"You really have to have adequate parking in order to have an economic development program and to service the people who want to shop," Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone said.

It's the latest tactic to keep shoppers local.

In Rockville Centre, parking meters print out coupons. In Patchogue, pay stations encourage turnover. In Huntington, old school meters have been replaced with Muni-meters, and valet parking will pick up the overflow.

"This is wonderful. It's giving back to town," one driver said.

"It's fantastic that there's parking now, that there's help. I can get to my appointment on time," added Ilene Persoff of Huntington.

But not everyone agrees.

"I think it's posh and unnecessary," said Susan Leach of Huntington.

But merchants said the old hunt-for-a-spot routine drives away business.

"You put your hard-earned living into here and then you don't have the customers coming  in to see you, that want to spend money," said Peter Pastorelli, the owner of Value Drugs.

Vision Long Island, which advocates for smart growth, is watching closely.

"If it is something that does work in a successful downtown like Huntington, you'll see other downtowns try it," director Eric Alexander said.

The valet parking is free for drivers but everything comes with a price tag. The cost is being split by the town and the business community, an investment they say in the town's economy.

The cost is $50,000 for the three-month trial period.

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