Not long ago, Long Island Rail Road President Helena Williams stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray, proudly announcing the creation of the town's first transit-oriented zone, enabling West Hempstead to begin the revitalization of a long-neglected, though critically vital gateway.
"This is a unique opportunity to create rental units nearby a LIRR station while at the same time resolving a community issue," said Ms. Williams. "There's been a lot of discussion lately about 'transit-oriented development' on Long Island but the Town of Hempstead is actually doing it. This kind of housing represents the future for Long Island. The LIRR is delighted to be part of the solution to what has been a difficult local problem for many years."
How quickly lofty words can be drowned out by the din of a fading train whistle.
Central to the redevelopment of this area, by way of the construction of high-end rental units by Trammel Crow, is the proximity of the project not only to our community's central business district along Hempstead Avenue, but to the West Hempstead line of the Long Island Rail Road.
Indeed, the very success of the renewal process is dependent, as the zoning suggests, upon being "transit oriented."
For the MTA to propose the termination of weekend service on the West Hempstead line, at this most decisive moment in what is central to the rebirth of our community, is to stand reason on head, a slap in the face of the good people of West Hempstead, who have endured, over too many years, cuts in service, a station house unworthy of our community, and virtually nonexistent maintenance of MTA facilities, bordering on abandonment.
The utter failure of the MTA to keep its own house in order, on track to a surplus one day, derailed into deficit the next, has made mockery of the public trust. It seems almost contrived to say, "This is no way to run a railroad."
The MTA may well view the West Hempstead branch of the LIRR as the end-of-the-line. Be assured, West Hempsteaders view our status as a transit-oriented community as only the beginning of our hamlet's resurgence.
On behalf of the Dashing Dans of West Hempstead, Hempstead Gardens, Lakeview, and points west, and the next generation of LIRR riders, I implore the MTA to keep the trains running in West Hempstead.
Seth D. Bykofsky
(The writer, a longtime community advocate, is a former president of the West Hempstead Civic Association.)