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Watchdog: Lights back on at Deer Park train station

The southwest section of the Deer Park LIRR

The southwest section of the Deer Park LIRR station. (Nov. 20, 2013) Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

At the end of the day, the last thing railroad commuters need to worry about is finding their way through the dark.

But that's what many have been doing at the Deer Park LIRR station, where lights in one section of the parking lot went dark several weeks ago. One commuter told us about it early this month, just after Daylight Saving Time ended and late afternoon trains were arriving in darkness.

"Without lights, the parking lot is unsafe and creepy when we get off the train," Sandra Clarson of Dix Hills wrote in an email. She said the lights had been out since August and her calls to Suffolk County, which maintains the lot, had not produced answers. "They keep telling me they are working on it," Clarson said.

The lot is one of five in the county with carports topped with solar panels; lights are positioned on the underside of the carports. The affected section, in the southwest corner, has marked spaces for almost 300 cars. More commuters walk through that section to reach cars farther away.

On the evening we visited, the pitch black made it difficult to decipher car outlines. A raised concrete walkway caught us by surprise.

In a word: Creepy.

Early this month, we asked the county when a repair could be expected, and if temporary lights could be installed; as weeks passed, commuters continued to ask us the same questions.

On Wednesday evening, the lights were shining again. "Today getting off the train, about five women cheered," Clarson wrote in an email.

County spokeswoman Vanessa Baird-Streeter said it had taken several weeks to diagnose what was wrong and arrange for the repairs, which required approval of a purchase order before parts and materials could be ordered.

So commuters who had been left in the dark have a reason to be thankful. Still, we'd be tempted to add a flashlight to our tote bag, just in case.

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