LIRR strike would cost up to $50 million a day, DiNapoli says

An LIRR strike had the potential to cost An LIRR strike had the potential to cost the economy of Long Island and New York City up to $50 million per day, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli estimated on July 15, 2014. About 300,000 Long Islanders ride the commuter rail daily. Photo Credit: Nancy Borowick

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An LIRR strike would cost the economy of Long Island and New York City up to $50 million per day, the state's top fiscal officer said Tuesday.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli estimated that economic activity, from tourism and small businesses to Broadway shows and restaurants, would be hit hard by a work stoppage at the Long Island Rail Road.

A strike could be "devastating," he said, for delis, newsstands, dry cleaners and other shops that serve commuters, and for communities, such as Long Beach and Montauk, that rely on visitors coming by train.

"There will be no winners who come out of this, only negatives at a time where we can least afford it," DiNapoli said, referring to Long Island's slow recovery from superstorm Sandy in 2012 and the housing collapse and Great Recession, which both began in 2007.

"Many of the mom and pop shops around the stations . . . some of them are just about making it," he said in an interview. "You could see some of these folks perhaps having to close their doors."

DiNapoli, a Democrat from Great Neck Plaza, also said a walkout by the LIRR's unionized workers would coincide with the height of the tourism season, a key component of the $5.6 billion leisure and entertainment industry in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Consumer spending lost now won't be made up, he said.

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DiNapoli called his up-to-$50-million-per-day estimate of a strike's economic impact "conservative. . . . It could be higher than that." The figure is based on LIRR ridership, census data and other statistics.

For comparison, the size of the Island's economy was about $137 billion last year, based on the value of all goods and services produced here, according to the forecasting firm IHS.

The Regional Plan Association, a Manhattan-based think tank, estimated earlier this year that 30 percent of Nassau residents and 11 percent of Suffolk residents commute to New York City, and one-third of them take the LIRR.

And $1 out of every $4 of income earned by local residents comes from employment in the city.

The LIRR Commuter Council, which represents riders, endorsed DiNapoli's impact estimate Tuesday. Council executive director William Henderson said: "A strike would be a major blow to Long Island and the entire region."

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, through a spokeswoman, said, "We hope the unions heed this message that they ought to modify their unreasonable demands instead of continuing to threaten a nightmare for everyone on Long Island."

A spokesman for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said he would have no comment, while an official for the LIRR unions didn't respond to a request for comment.

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Economic effects of an LIRR strike

Up to $50M in economic activity would be lost per day if a strike occurred

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$137B was the size of the Long Island economy last year

$1 in every $4 of income earned by Long Islanders comes from

employment in New York City*

More than $26B is brought home to Long Island by commuters: $18.9 billion to Nassau, $7.6 billion to Suffolk*

One third of the Island's 269,400 commuters to New York City use the LIRR*

Note: * figures are for 2011, the most recent available; Sources: NYS comptroller, IHS, Regional Plan Association

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