Colleagues applauded the ongoing legislative efforts of Senators Michael Balboni (speaking) and Kemp Hannon, who spoke at an Aug. 31 press conference at the Floral Park Train Station. Here, they stand united in their opposition to the MTA/LIRR's proposal to install an additional track along the Main Line. Photo by Carisa Keane
Politicians and citizens alike once again publicly criticized the Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Long Island Rail Road's (MTA/LIRR) failure to "think outside the box." They stood united against the controversial proposal to construct an additional track along the LIRR Main Line. Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray held the press conference at the Floral Park Train Station Aug. 31, the deadline for filing public comments for inclusion in the official MTA third track project record. To date, 85 local organizations and public officials oppose the project.
"We have gathered here today united in our opposition to a proposed project that would literally tear apart the very fabric of our neighborhoods," Supervisor Murray said. "The MTA's ill-conceived plan to construct a third railroad track through several communities, including Bellerose, Bellerose Terrace, Floral Park, New Hyde Park, Garden City Park, Mineola, Carle Place, Westbury and Hicksville, is one of the most destructive proposals in recent memory. In fact, 10,000 residents have united, signing petitions in opposition to the MTA's scheme. The complete disregard for the people whom they are supposed to serve has galvanized business owners, residents, community groups and public officials as never before."
Several of Supervisor Murray's colleagues in government voiced their opposition as well. Floral Park Mayor Phil Guarnieri, who steadfastly disagrees with the track proposal and voiced such at the recent scoping hearings, said it's the most significant threat the Village of Floral Park has experienced. "It's not a question of 'not in our backyard' but 'enough in our backyard!'" he exclaimed.
Senator Michael Balboni, joined by Senator Kemp Hannon, added, "I want the MTA to stand here and look at this village and see what another track would do," he said, referring to Floral Park, which actually has four tracks along the Main Line, along with its neighbor, Bellerose Village. Balboni publicly called on the MTA/LIRR to extend the public comment period. He's certain residents would continue to offer comments.
Senator Hannon believes the MTA is putting the cart before the horse because an environmental study has yet to be completed. "There's no need to go ahead with this right now," he said. "Quality of life and economic progress must be balanced."
Republican candidate for Nassau County executive, Greg Petersen, asked, "When is enough enough?" He also criticized his opponent in the upcoming election, County Executive Tom Suozzi, for not taking a stand on the issue one way or another. "When you destroy neighborhoods, our voices must be heard," he said.
Nassau County Legislator Vincent Muscarella, said, "The MTA has put forth no real rationale for this project." His colleague, Legislator Richard Nicolello, added, "This is not so much about us but the people to our sides. There are only a few residents here today but they represent many more. We are asking the MTA to listen, go back to the drawing board and scrap this plan."
Further, due to the efforts of elected representatives in Albany the MTA/LIRR must now provide full disclosure of its plan before a state board even considers final approval. Officials lauded the efforts of Senators Balboni and Hannon in instituting the legislative mechanism that now requires the MTA to appear before the MTA Capital Program Review Board prior to utilizing allocated funds to begin the track project. The review board, comprised of representatives for state legislative leaders, the governor and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has the authority to withhold authorization for the project to move forward.
Hempstead Town Receiver of Taxes Don Clavin, who did not attend the press conference but has been conducting a commuter survey, noted, "The filth, grime and pigeon droppings that abound at many local stations make the MTA a bad neighbor."
Mayor Guarnieri agrees. Instead of "wasting taxpayer funds on an unwelcome project," which is projected to cost the MTA/LIRR half a billion dollars, the Floral Park mayor believes the MTA should maintain and repair the existing infrastructure. "On a daily basis we see pieces of concrete, steel and iron falling from the crumbling overhead rail system," he said.
It is important to note that officials and citizens living along the 11.5-mile Main Line from Queens Village to Hicksville favor the elimination of five on-grade crossings slated for New Hyde Park (Covert Avenue, 12th Street and New Hyde Park Road), Westbury (School Street) and New Cassel (Urban Avenue).
Officials personally hand delivered close to 10,000 petitions to LIRR President James Dermody following the press conference. In fact, President Dermody signed for them. If, however, the project is approved, construction is slated to begin in 2009 and end some time in 2016.