Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 21 May 2010 00:00
In case anyone was wondering about the jackhammering and cement pouring that has been going on in the plaza of the Mineola Train Station, it will all be very clear soon. Construction is under way for the revitalization of Station Plaza North.
The project took over three years to plan and to secure funding through community development block grants. Development commenced about four weeks ago and will most likely be completed by mid-June.
The first part of this multiphase project is the construction and installation of traffic islands, curbing and footings. The project will ultimately include new medians, sidewalks, pavers, benches, trees, decorative plantings and resurfacing of the entire plaza roadway.
There will be a large traffic island that will serve as a divider between Front Street, which goes under the bridge and the road extension on the north side of the train tracks that parallels Mineola Boulevard.
“You’d have traffic going in all directions, people going the wrong way,” Superintendent of Public Works Tom Rini said. “It’s more of the guiding of the traffic coming out of those roads. All new street lighting will be implemented, some planter areas and a decorative sign up near Mineola Boulevard and the extension off 2nd Street.”
The existing concrete all around the plaza and near Winthrop-University Hospital will be ripped up and replaced by new asphalt. There have been numerous construction challenges including pedestrian clutter due to train usage and narrowing of traffic due to the groundwork. The village has carefully phased the project to allow continued access to the railroad by commuters, continued pedestrian traffic and shopper access to the plaza, and only creates limited temporary parking displacement during construction.
“Basically the whole area is getting a makeover,” Rini said. “Things have gone smoothly thus far and weather permitting, we’ll get this done real soon.”
In addition to the access consumers and residents still have to the storefronts and train station, access to Winthrop-University Hospital’s emergency wing entrance has remained unimpeded throughout construction. Mayor Jack M. Martins recently surveyed the construction site and inspected the first phase of work.
“It will be a nice gateway into Mineola from the train station,” Rini concluded. “You can see that it was an older area and it needed to be fixed. I think with people coming on and off the train, it’s a nice entranceway.”
When the south side of the plaza was redone, and the M.T.A. was building an intermodal center for people to park their cars, Rini worked with the transit authority to rebuild all the existing roadways around it.
“I spent a whole weekend out there from Friday night until Monday morning and didn’t go home,” he said. “We closed the whole thing down and by the end of that weekend, there were all new roads. Now, we have to do it on the north side.”
Martins said that he’s looking forward to the completion of the project and seeing the redevelopment firsthand. “It’s going to be nice,” he said. “It really is. You can see the plaza taking shape and see the architectural elements that are being added.”
Martins revealed at last week’s board of trustees meeting, that he and other village officials met recently with the Long Island Rail Road to discuss a possible solution to the constant flooding that occurs when the plaza is hit with heavy rainfall. He said the flooding issue has been a topic of discussion for years and they’re looking for a potential solution.
There has not only been a flooding issue in Station Plaza North, but also along the southwest side of the hospital. “I know that the railroad has already retained engineers to study the drainage issues in the area and I will look forward to the railroad providing the resources necessary to address the issues in that area,” Martins said.
The notion of using taxpayer money to fix the flooding issue is not something the Village Board wants to utilize. Martins feels that the railroad should foot the bill.
“I am loath to invest taxpayer funds in correcting the flooding issue that’s affecting the plaza,” he said. “It should be, in my mind, an item that’s paid for by the railroad. We will continue to have these discussions with the railroad and continue to insist on the railroad meeting their obligations to the commuters and residents of our village and actively work toward correcting that condition.”
When looking at the plaza, it has essentially served as an entry/exit point for the Long Island Rail Road. So the question is ‘What is the responsibility and the obligation of the railroad to the local communities where they do have train stations to provide resources to improve those areas around the station?’
“We were able to secure monies and grants and decided to supply those monies to that area, but to the part that is specific to the village,” Martins said. “And so, it is certainly incumbent on [the railroad] if nothing else in good faith to recognize the efforts and investments that the residents of the village are making in the plaza and to do their part to fix a recurring flooding issue that has been there for decades.”