Feds get earful over Wyandanch train project

The Town of Babylon's historical society has had The Town of Babylon's historical society has had its focus on Wyandanch for the past year, with an effort to learn as much as possible about the town's early days. (Feb. 17, 2012) Photo Credit: Erin Geismar

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Sen. Charles Schumer pushed federal officials Thursday to transfer funding so Babylon Town can build a new train station in Wyandanch.

Schumer asked the Federal Highway Administration to transfer $2 million earmarked for a Wyandanch road project to the Federal Transit Administration to help pay for the new Long Island Rail Road station. Town officials said they have other sources of funding for the road project and are in need of money for the train station. Both projects are part of the town's massive Wyandanch Rising redevelopment initiative.

"A new Wyandanch train station would be a powerful engine in our efforts to attract private development," Schumer said. "Instead of derailing the project, the feds should be pressing full speed ahead to direct these resources to the most effective possible route."

Doug Hecox, Federal Highway Administration spokesman, said they are "looking into" the issue.

Town officials estimate a new train station, overpass and site improvements will cost $4 million. The town has obtained $1 million from the state for the project.

Salvatore Arena, spokesman for the LIRR, which will assist in the design of the building, did not comment on the funding but said the LIRR supports the redevelopment and is working closely with local officials.

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In the coming months, the town plans to begin the first phase of construction for Wyandanch Rising, a $500 million public-private endeavor that has been more than a decade in the making. The project includes building a transit plaza near the LIRR station, creating mixed-use buildings and installing a sewer line down Straight Path. The train station is due to be built within the next few years, officials said.

Schumer, a Democrat, made his plea Thursday from in front of the LIRR station, standing alongside Suffolk County Legis. DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville), town Deputy Mayor Tony Martinez and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who spearheaded Wyandanch Rising when he was town supervisor.

In 2007, Schumer intervened in a standoff between the town and the U.S. Postal Service over its plans to build a post office with barbed-wire fencing near downtown Wyandanch. On Thursday, Schumer described the more customer-friendly post office as an "anchor" for the revitalization.

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"If [the funding] goes unused, the feds will take it back and who knows what other state it will go to," Schumer warned. "Bottom line, the feds should not be throwing up administrative hurdles to this project."

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