If a seat has been installed in a train, LIRR riders should be able to sit in it, according to a commuter watchdog group that is blasting the railroad for taking precious seats out of service even on crowded cars.
The LIRR Commuter's Council on Tuesday put out what it called an S.O.S. -- "Save Our Seats" -- and called on the railroad to reinstall backseat cushions removed from many of the "flip-down" seats found at the ends of some electric railroad cars. Council chairman Mark Epstein said the missing upholstery has long been a problem, but it's become more noticeable since the Long Island Rail Road has been forced to run fewer trains because of damage to two East River tunnels caused by superstorm Sandy.
"The cars are not designed to handle large numbers of standing riders, and the result is an uncomfortable ride for many," Epstein said. "The least that the LIRR can do is to make every possible seat available for use."
LIRR spokesman Salvatore Arena said the agency "will review the concerns of the Commuter Council and the union in this matter. However, these seats were designed to flip down and be used as seating when the car is not in use by the engineer."
Anthony Simon, general chairman of the United Transportation Union, which represents LIRR conductors, said the seats in question are designed for use by train crews and "have never been counted on or relied on as available seating." He said some of the seats have been broken by customers who try to bypass a locking mechanism that keeps them folded away.