For Openers, Plenty of Traffic at Deer Park Tanger

TransportationTravelRoad TransportationCommackVehiclesLong Island ExpresswayKung Fu Panda (movie)

A grand opening, indeed.

On its first day open for business, the Tanger at The Arches outlet center in Deer Park is proving to be a popular destination.

Traffic was snarled around the 800,000-square-foot center, with GrandBoulevard -- where there are two entrances -- a virtual parking lot.

Ken Shreyer, 38, of Brentwood, said he spent an hour on two roads justto get to Tanger to see "Kung Fu Panda" with his wife and 15-month-oldson, Brent, at the Regal Cinemas.

"It took a ridiculous amount of time," Shreyer said. "I'm never comingagain. I'm going to take the little guy to a movie, and I'm out ofhere."

Ed Blumenfeld, president of Blumenfeld Development Group, the mall'sSyosset-based developer, acknowledged the traffic inconvenience facedby many shoppers.

"Today's an unusual day," Blumenfeld said Thursday afternoon fromTanger. "There's been a lot of buzz. It's testing the limits of ourtraffic mitigation plan, but it'll calm down after the weekend."

Blumenfeld said an accident on Commack Road contributed to the traffic problems.

Thirteen Suffolk police officers were posted on the roads around Tanger, directing traffic.

Shoppers who got there early said they did not run into traffic issues.Two shoppers from Setauket, Maureen Godfrey, 40, and her friend,Michele Motekew, 36, said they arrived at Tanger at about 10:15 a.m.and it took them about a half hour.

They went to The Christmas Tree Shop and Gap Kids. The lines were about 15 to 20 minutes long at Gap Kids, they said.

The stores "were both mobbed," Godfrey said.

At noon, an overflow parking lot at the Deer Park train station wasfull and customers were parking on the grass, along the curbs. Trafficwas backed up on Pine Aire Drive and also Howells Road, which runsthrough a residential Brentwood neighborhood.

There were parking spaces available for drivers who made it to thecenter's parking lot, although it took one driver 20 minutes to get outof the lot in early afternoon.

About 70 stores out of about 100 were to open Thursday.

According to the developer, 4,600 parking spaces are on site and anadditional 130 spots are available for mall use at the Deer Park trainstation, 1.4 miles away. There is shuttle service to the mall.

Concerned that there wouldn't be enough parking for shoppers expectedto show up, Babylon town officials temporarily lifted parkingrestrictions to let motorists park on four streets near the mall.

The town board rescinded existing no-parking restrictions on BurtDrive, Jefryn Boulevard East, Jefryn Boulevard West, and MarcusBoulevard for four days, from noon Thursday until noon Monday.

"The event is expected to generate more vehicles requiring the need forparking than the premises' parking lot can accommodate," according tothe resolution.

Babylon Supervisor Steven Bellone said the move was a contingency plan,necessary even though the mall will be operating below capacity when itopens.

Babylon Town and Suffolk County officials say the typical eveningrush-hour crunch can expect to see a bump of about 1,400 cars per houraround the outlet center. A Huntington study puts that number evenhigher.

Millions of dollars in road and traffic-signal improvements alreadycompleted -- and others in the works -- are supposed to ease the swellin traffic.

Blumenfeld Development Group says it has spent more than $10 million onso-called "traffic mitigation projects" -- widening intersections andinstalling traffic signals along Commack Road, Grand Avenue and CorbinRoad.

Blumenfeld is also reconstructing the intersection at Commack Road andthe Long Island Expressway in Dix Hills -- a project expected to becomplete by November.

And local and federal governments are kicking in, too. Grand Boulevardwas repaved with a $1.2-million federal grant. Suffolk County plans torebuild Bay Shore and Commack roads over the next few years. And thetowns of Islip and Babylon will hold about $500,000 from Blumenfeld intrust funds earmarked as contributions to future road improvements.

Until the changes are completed, shoppers were advised to followTanger's recommended driving directions -- from the Long IslandExpressway to the Sagtikos Parkway and west along Pine Aire Drive.

Even with many of the improvements, critics of the mall say the areasimply can't handle it and the slew of other major developmentsrecently built or in the works -- a cluster of box stores in Commack, amixed-use development planned for the Pilgrim State site and a proposedrail-truck transfer center near the Edgewood Preserve.

"Now that it's opening, the traffic nightmare we predicted will be areality," said Laura Mansi, president of the 4 Towns Civic Association.

David Blumenfeld, vice president of Blumenfeld Development Group, hassaid any development would have generated traffic -- and an industrialproject would have created even more than The Arches.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times