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Rob Astorino favors 60-day LIRR 'cooling-off' period

Rob Astorino, Republican challenger for New York State

Rob Astorino, Republican challenger for New York State governor, talks with guests at a barbeque hosted by the New York State Fraternal Order Of Police Lodge 317 in Hicksville, Thursday, June 28, 2014 Credit: Uli Seit

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino said Saturday that the Long Island Rail Road's July 20 strike deadline should be extended 60 days to restore calm and improve the odds of reaching a settlement.

"I think they need an extension -- a little cooling-off time -- so they can come back to the table with cooler heads . . . to hammer out an agreement that is fair to both sides," the Westchester County executive said at a campaign stop in Hicksville.

Unions for 6,000 LIRR workers and 10 members of New York's congressional delegation have also favored a 60-day extension of the federally regulated "cooling-off" period.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority in May appeared inclined to consider an extension of the deadline.

But since then, it repeatedly has rejected that strategy, saying a September strike would be even worse for its 300,000 daily riders because family vacations will have ended and children will have returned to school. MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg reiterated that stance Saturday.

"While there is no good time for the LIRR unions to inflict a traffic nightmare on Long Island, it would be far worse in September," Lisberg said in an email.

On Friday, talks between the MTA and LIRR labor leaders ended after only 90 minutes, leaving the impasse unresolved.

Two spokesmen for the unions and a campaign spokesman for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat who seeks re-election in November, did not respond to messages for comment.

Astorino was in Hicksville for an event at the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 317 -- one of five Long Island campaign stops Saturday.

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