Written by Willa Morris Friday, 18 March 2011 00:00
(Editors Note: A Great Neck resident emailed the Manhasset Press regarding a pocket track that the LIRR is planning on building in Great Neck. She wrote, “Those of us who live in Thomaston where the track is supposed to be built think this should also be of interest to the communities east of here since its effect on Port, Plandome and Manhasset will be great.”)
In these dire economic times, when Governor Cuomo is demanding all kinds of budget cuts in order to be fiscally responsible, when the Nassau County budget is deemed out of control, when teachers’ jobs are at great risk and schools are in danger of losing ground because of the need to lay off teachers and increase class size, when the jobs of firemen and policemen are at risk, the LIRR is planning on building a pocket track in Great Neck to run more trains to NY to “better serve the communities west of Great Neck” during rush hour and during games at Citifield and the US Open.
Although mass transit is desirable and its use should be encouraged, there are already trains that make special runs to Citifield for the games and the US Open. No one has failed to get to a game because of a lack of trains.
If all of the public sector jobs are being asked to “Give Back,” the railroad should also be asked to be responsible to the taxpayers. It seems totally irresponsible and even ridiculous to build an extra turnaround track, 1200 feet long, the size of four football fields, to run more trains to games when the very structures of our society are at risk.
It seems fiscally irresponsible for the MTA to have given the LIRR almost $27 million for capital improvement to build this pocket track as another turnaround track in Great Neck in a residential area when there already is one pocket track for this purpose. The LIRR has received $40 million, but some of that money is to fix a railroad bridge and drainage. The railroad has linked the improvements so it can build its pocket track. We think capital improvement should be for all the ridership of the LIRR.
It is wrong for the railroad to start these trains in Great Neck when there is a station in Port Washington meant to launch trains. If the trains started in Port Washington, the communities east of Great Neck (Port, Plandome and Manhasset, would also be well served. If the LIRR needs a staging area for when (and if) the east side terminal will be built, certainly Port Washington, Plandome and Manhasset should have access to those trains.
If the issue is trains west of Great Neck, there are other options for the LIRR other than the pocket track. The LIRR has refused to answer the phone calls of the Mayor of Thomaston and its only response to suggestions is to say, “You’re not the railroad.” That, of course is the point. We are not the railroad but we do have questions for the LIRR and it is the job of the LIRR to answer them.
If trains are to be started in Great Neck for east side access (again, when and if that occurs) should the residents of Port, Plandome and Manhasset have to drive to Great Neck to access these trains? If they do, the station will be overcrowded, the car park areas, already full, will be overloaded, the street outside the train station will be lined with cars causing terrible and dangerous traffic conditions which already exist and will only become worse.
A pocket track is not the answer to a problem. It creates a problem. Moreover, this capital improvement plan is not totally funded. It is one third funded with the rest of the money presumed to be available in coming years.
What if the money is not available? After all, it is not available for education and other necessary programs. Will we then be left with a partially completed project?
The LIRR will be holding an environmental impact study sometime this month. They have not said when. We urge everyone to turn out and ask questions and demand answers. Keep the LIRR on track. It is meant to serve all of its ridership and not sell us a bill of goods meant to turn a profit.
More and better train service is an achievable and worthwhile goal. Spending a minimum of $26 million on a pocket track is not the way to do this.