(Editor's Note: The following is a statement from Senator Craig Johnson regarding his opposition to the MTA/LIRR's third track proposal. He discussed the proposal before two distinct groups.)
"Last week, I had the opportunity to discuss my opposition to the MTA/LIRR's third track proposal before two distinct groups.
"One was a gathering in Floral Park of residents who took time out of their day to voice their opinions about this project at a public hearing held by the New York Assembly Advisory Committee on the Third Track. I was very encouraged, though not surprised, by the level and the intensity of civic participation at this hearing.
"Unfortunately, this was in stark contrast to an address in front of my fellow senators several days earlier, where I attempted to put to a vote my legislation to give Main Line communities a voice in whether or not the third track is constructed.
"This measure, the Main Line Community Empowerment Act, (S.7037), would allow for the construction of a third track only after two-thirds of the village and town governments that represent the project's host communities signed off on it.
"Just as important: Under my bill no vote can be taken until a public hearing is held.
"In other words: The MTA/LIRR would have no choice but to come to these communities, face the residents, listen to their concerns and address every question that is asked.
"During the last three years and over the past two administrations, the justifications for this project have shifted continuously. I believe this legislation would be the only way that Main Line residents would get the answers that they deserve.
"Personally, I want to hear how the MTA - which had previously stated that the third track was part of its five-year capital plan that would be funded by Mayor Bloomberg's (since defeated) congestion tax proposal - now plans to pay for this project.
"MTA officials also need to acknowledge this project in a greater context and give real answers about its part in a regional integrated rail system.
"They do not hesitate to talk about how a third track would 'better facilitate' East Side Access (though when pressed, these same officials admit that it is not needed for the LIRR to service Grand Central Station.) However, they never discuss how the DOT's proposed truck-to-rail intermodal facility in Suffolk County would affect the frequency of rail freight on a third track and its potential effects on the dozens of residential neighborhoods it would pass through.
"Nor have I ever heard the MTA discuss the ramifications of the proposed Cross Harbor Rail Tunnel, a similar freight transportation project that even I initially supported, until its potential ramifications on the Main Line communities' quality of life became apparent. It is my hope that some other local elected officials that have lent their names to the Cross Harbor project, but have come out in opposition to a third track, will revoke their support as well.
"Using a Senate procedure known as a motion to petition, I attempted on April 14 to get this bill, which is currently trapped in the Senate Transportation Committee, to a vote on the Senate floor.
"You can view video of my motion on YouTube or at my Senate website, www.nyssenate7.com.
"The video is taped off a feed controlled by the Senate Majority. So, what you won't see in this footage is that when I begin my motion, all but two members of the Senate Majority file out of the chamber and choose not to vote on the measure.
"The Senate Republicans have made a lot of noise about how their colleagues from Manhattan and the outer boroughs do not understand Long Island and its issues. Yet, when push came to shove, it was members of my conference that hail from New York City and Upstate that listened to my motion and voted in favor of it.
"No Majority member from Long Island could be bothered to be in the room to consider the prospect of giving Main Line communities the right to determine their own future.
"What does that tell you?
"I will continue to fight for this bill in the Senate. I am hopeful that the Main Line Community Empowerment Act will pick up traction in the Assembly as well.
"Assemblymen Alfano, McKevitt and Walker have joined me in voicing their concerns about a third track and serve as chairs to the Assembly Third Track advisory panel. During my address to them, I invited them to sponsor my legislation in their chamber.
"I hope that they take me up on this invitation.
"The welfare of Main Line community residents is too important to be lost in an entanglement of partisan allegiances, or the political bickering that has paralyzed progress in Albany for far too long."