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From the desk of NY State Senator Jack Martins: February 21, 2012

Next Stop: Congestion and Fare Hikes

All aboard! A bad idea is about to leave the station.

I won’t be getting on, but I’ll tell you about it in case you missed the news this past week. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is now considering a proposal that will allow Metro-North railroad to operate trains into Penn Station using the existing tracks.

I can already hear the gnashing of teeth and the pulling of hair as I write this but some of you may wonder what the harm is. To answer that, neighbors may suggest making their commute on an average business day. Wake up before dawn, wait on a freezing platform for a Long Island Rail Road train on which you will likely stand elbow to elbow with fellow commuters the entire way, due to over-crowding. Once you arrive, you must launch yourself out of the train and be swept along with the wave of people rushing up woefully undersized staircases, being sure to avoid perpetually out-of-order escalators.

Now, here’s the best part – you get to come back about 5:45 in the afternoon and do it all again, navigating the absolute crush of weary commuters who just want to get home. That’s the best-case scenario on a day with no major delays due to snow, rain, ice storms, electrical problems or signal delays. If any of those conditions exist, expect cancelled and re-routed trains and excruciating wait times with little or no information.

 The facts are simple. It’s already an overcrowded and difficult commute precisely because the 21 existing tracks at Penn Station must somehow be shared by all the traffic of the LIRR, Amtrak, and New Jersey Transit. Constructed in the 1960’s, after we made the tragic mistake of razing the old Penn Station, the current hub is simply not large enough to efficiently handle that sort of usage and volume. It makes absolutely no sense to add new trains and thousands more commuters to the mix, which in the end, will only add to the chaos. In fact, given the physical constraints, it seems likely that to make room for Metro-North, other lines will have to cut the number of trains running into and out of Penn.

That’s bad for the railroad and bad for its customers. The LIRR accounts for nearly 75 percent of the station’s weekday train traffic. It actually moves more people than Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark airports combined. Yet even with those staggering numbers, the railroad is only allotted seven of the 21 tracks! What would the commute look like for Long Islanders if access was further diminished? What would it look like if delays were even more common?

To make matters worse, the LIRR is predicting a significant increase in ridership the next several years. In 2007, it set a record with more than 86 million riders. While the East Side Access project to Grand Central is lumbering forward, it was approved to ease congestion at Penn Station and is being built to provide additional tracks at Grand Central for LIRR commuters, while not taking tracks away from Metro North riders. Realistically, the project is years from becoming a reality, and even upon completion, the LIRR would need to operate at existing Penn Station levels just to keep up with projected increases in ridership.

To give Metro North this access and to build the six new stations it wants, the MTA pegs the bill at about $1.2 billion. Did we miss something? We are constantly assailed by their ominous warnings of gigantic budgetary shortfalls. How then, can it struggle to find billions more for current mega projects while it simultaneously plans for billions in expenditures elsewhere? Something’s got to give. I know I am not alone in thinking that this will mean more outrageous fare hikes for commuters.

I have great respect and hope for new MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota. As former Deputy Mayor to Rudy Giuliani, he proved himself a pragmatic and skilled administrator. That’s why seven other Long Island senators and I have appealed to his practicality via a public letter, asking him to abandon this poorly conceived plan. It seems it would be far more sensible for the MTA to hunker down, reform its finances, and work on completing the monumental projects it has already started. Whatever your opinion, I urge you to please make your voices heard.

News

Winthrop University Hospital employee Jeffrey Brenner, a hyperbaric technician with the Life Support Technologies group in Mineola, recently received the American Heart Association’s prestigious Louis J. Acampora Heart Saver Award at a dinner at the Crest Hollow Country Club. The award is named for a Long Island teenager who succumbed to a sporting injury that is understood to have been preventable if a cardiac medical device had been immediately on-scene and applied. 

 

“I hope that I have made a real difference in my town and the world around me to help prevent death and improve the quality of people’s lives” said Brenner.

The Wheatley School recently hosted an Item Writing Workshop for more than 100 language teachers representing districts across New York State.  The workshop was sponsored by the Foreign Language Association of Chairpersons and Supervisors (FLACS), the professional organization that has assumed responsibility for the creation and administration of the FLACS

Checkpoint A and B Exams (formerly the NYS Second Language Proficiency and Regents Exams).


Sports

After consecutive seasons of finishing runner-up in the men’s golf Player of the Year for the Skyline Conference, Christian Bleck of St. Joseph’s took home first place in a rather unlikely turn of events. 

 

After a herniated disc caused the Chaminade High School alum to miss every event after the first week of the season until the conference tournament, Bleck returned—without even having the luxury of practicing a full 18 holes—and competed with the best players the conference has to offer. 

Cross-Country Crowned Champs

The Mineola Mustang boys cross-country team won the division 4A championship recently at Bethpage State Park.  This is the first championship for the program since 1974, ending a 40-year championship drought. 

 

Mineola defeated Seaford, who also entered the undefeated in division competition, 38-20.  Overcoming rain and high winds throughout the race, many Mustangs ran personal records for the 5K in route to the victory.


Calendar

Mineola School Meeting - November 20

Fools Rush In - November 21

Mustangs Face Roosevelt - November 22 


Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
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