The $200,000 study of traffic-related issues pertaining to the Nassau County Hub, adopted by the Long Island Regional Planning Board six weeks ago, continues to inspire criticism as area activists have begun to find what can best be described as "mistakes" in the expensive series of proposals.
The most egregious of those "mistakes," according to both local residents and to Neal Lewis, Executive Director of the Long Island Neighborhood Task Force, is a proposal to build a new Long Island Rail Road station in Carle Place to link to a people-mover system serving Hub businesses.
As John Hogan, a resident of Carle Place informed planners at a hearing on the study in early March, the proposed site of the new station is actually the property of the Carle Place Water District and contains two active wells that supply 25 percent of the drinking water to the community.
"That revelation really didn't surprise me," Mr. Lewis said during an interview with this newspaper last week. "I was sure that there was something wrong with the proposal, as it was very clear from reading it that the people who prepared it really didn't do their homework ¬ on many levels.
"You'd think that for $200,000 of the taxpayers' money, they could have driven over and actually looked at the land they were talking about. Instead they looked at a map, saw a plot of green and said, 'Hey, we can build on that.'
"I think these guys thought they were going to waltz in and do whatever they want. It was clear that they were embarrassed when they were told about the water district. But that's what's called getting what you deserve.
"They completely ran rough-shod over any community input, opting instead to just work with the developers who'll profit most from their proposals. It turns out that there are a lot of things that can be improved upon."
In addition to his position with the Long Island Neighborhood Network, Lewis also chairs the Nassau Master Plan Taskforce, a compendium of local civic groups ranging from the Nassau County League of Women Voters to Common Cause to the Long Island Progressive Coalition, all of which see themselves as having a stake in the county's future.
As chair of that organization, Lewis has written a forceful letter to County Executive Thomas S. Gulotta expressing his concern that the Hub Study represents a proposal that will fall far short of providing a true solution to transportation issues throughout the county.
"We strongly urge you to broaden the mission of the people working on transportation issues for central Nassau, and to open up the process currently dominated by business interests, to input from surrounding communities and from advocates of public transportation," Lewis wrote.
"In addition to the problems regarding the proposed Carle Place train station, there's the question of how the Hub will be connected to the Village of Hempstead," Lewis said during his interview with this newspaper.
"Proponents of the Hub study have totally disregarded the option of using the Garden City right-of-way train line, something that was central to earlier proposals for improved transportation in Nassau.
"During the hearing held by the county legislature's planning committee, lawmakers were told that the only route under consideration for connecting the Hub to Hempstead Village was to run an elevated track along Hempstead Turnpike.
"The reasoning? Because, they said, the Garden City right-of-way is 'too small' to accommodate trains. I think you really have to question this in light of the fact that trains don't appear to be any wider now than during the 1960s and '70s, when proposals for the right-of-way's use were in vogue.
"Given the manifest difficulties that might be anticipated in the building of a Hempstead Turnpike 'L,' I think you have to question the commitment of those pushing this plan to actually connecting the Hub to Hempstead."
But Lewis didn't stop at just questioning the commitment of the Hub study's proponents to the Village of Hempstead. He also charged that the real reason the right-of-way isn't being considered is the large amount of money the Long Island Rail Road is allegedly making from running a freight line on those very same tracks.
"It's all very suspicious," he said. "When a lot of money is at stake, options can be forgotten. What this tells me is that there's really more going on than meets the eye.
"The reality is, none of these movers and shakers is really taking the people mover seriously. It appears that they are just leaving it out there... almost as a distraction.
"People living in the communities have a right to be upset about this proposal ¬ particularly in light of the closed process that surrounds it."
Asked where he thinks the Hub proposals stand at this given time, Lewis, a veteran of the charter revision process which created the Nassau County Legislature, said, "I think we are at a point where everybody is sort of taking a deep breath and waiting for the dust to settle. Certain people, it seems to me, are stepping back a little from the plan.
"It's too early to tell, though, what that's going to mean in the long run," Lewis continued.