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Commuter council opens unstaffed office for LIRR riders

From right, LIRR President Patrick Nowakowski, speaks beside

From right, LIRR President Patrick Nowakowski, speaks beside Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray and Mark Epstein, chairman of the Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council, during a press conference at the LIRRCC's new office located in the Ralph G. Caso Executive and Legislative Bulding in Mineola Friday, June 5, 2015. The office is the LIRRCC's first on Long Island. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

A group advocating for hundreds of thousands of LIRR riders yesterday announced the grand opening of its first office on the Island.

The all-volunteer Long Island Rail Road Commuter Council, however, has no money to staff its new headquarters in Mineola.

At Friday's ribbon-cutting ceremony, attended by well over a dozen local and state politicians, council chairman Mark Epstein said for now its 11 volunteers would use the office to hold meetings with lawmakers and others.

"But it will have to be on a scheduled basis, unfortunately, right now," Epstein said. "We hope to overcome that. And, maybe members of the Assembly and the Senate here can help twist a little arm, and get some money for staff."

The crowd laughed, but the politicians, who minutes earlier gave speeches about the important work being done by the commuter council to improve services for railroad riders, remained largely silent.

The only person who offered to help the group find money to hire a full-time staffer was state Assemb. David McDonough (R-Merrick), the ranking member on the Transportation Committee.

McDonough said there were several bills pending in Albany seeking funding for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and he hopes there is some money in that pot for the council.

"Well, if we get some of the MTA money, some of that will dribble down . . . to the council too," McDonough said.

The new office is on the third floor of the Ralph G. Caso Executive and Legislative Building at One West St. in Mineola. It was once used to store Nassau County records, including real estate files.

The 300-square-foot office is about a five-minute walk from the LIRR's Mineola station. It was donated by Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, who was among those in attendance.

"I am proud to provide this space," Mangano said. "The level of communications between riders and the LIRR will no doubt increase because we have this space, and they have a place to go, and a place to work and a place to communicate."

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