The Long Island Rail Road is seeking to extend its tracks at the Port Washington station as a precursor to its intended future service to Grand Central Terminal. But the plan, which would allow 18 additional train cars to be stored at the site at the possible cost of losing parking spaces, has attracted the ire of the North Hempstead Town councilwoman who represents the area.
The extensions would allow the LIRR to run more trains to Penn Station and Grand Central when the East Side Access project is complete in 2019, said LIRR chief planning officer Elisa Picca.
The LIRR is considering two options for extending two tracks at the station, Picca said. Its preferred option requires it to purchase an 18-by-439-foot parcel in a parking lot owned by North Hempstead off South Bayles Avenue. That plan would remove 40 parking spaces from the lot, she said, adding that re-striping the existing lot could replace the 40 spaces.
The alternate plan involves putting the track extensions in part of a parking lot the LIRR already owns along Haven Avenue. That would result in the loss of 140 parking spaces, but could be completed without the cooperation of the town.
Each option allows for the storage of the additional 18 train cars.
In the works for years, the plan has come to the forefront now that the LIRR is about to seek a designer for the new tracks.
Last month, LIRR officials met with town officials, including Supervisor Jon Kaiman and Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio.
"The idea of storing these massive trains, adding two storage tracks to Port Washington, will completely ruin the character of the town," she said. "This is creating a train depot in Port Washington."
De Giorgio said she distrusts LIRR assurances that the parking could be saved if the town sells its land to the railroad.
"I don't see how giving away some of the parking lot is going to ultimately give us more parking spaces," she said.
Kaiman, a Democrat whose term expires this year, said he was open to working with the railroad to keep the area from losing parking spaces.
"Our option could be simply to disengage with the railroad and if they go forward with their project, we lose" the 140 parking spots, Kaiman said. "Or we can see if there's a way to mitigate the impact and at the same time obtain all the benefits."
Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington issued a statement asking that the town and the railroad make all proposals publicly available to be evaluated by the community.
LIRR officials say the railroad is planning to do outreach in the community about the project.
Mitch Schwartz, co-president of the Port Washington Chamber of Commerce, said his primary concern is parking in an area where parking is already notoriously tight.
"If we're going to give up even 40, there's got to be a compelling reason, something on the other side that is going to get us better service," Schwartz said. "I'm not convinced at this point."