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Andrew Cuomo’s LIRR expansion plan faces opposition among Senate GOP lawmakers

New York State Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosett), pictured

New York State Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosett), pictured in a Tuesday, July 8, 2014 file photo, says Gov. Andrew Cuomo's infrastructure plan is "rehash of an old rehash." Credit: James Escher / James Escher

ALBANY — Some key Republican senators weren’t on board Tuesday with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposal for a $1 billion infrastructure project that would boost rail and air travel on Long Island.

“They are non-starters,” said Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), a veteran in the Senate’s Republican majority. “I would have to assess his plan to see what has changed to put this back into play.”

Most of the elements of Cuomo’s proposal have been offered over the past 30 years, but have died in the face of local opposition.

“This is rehash of an old rehash,” said veteran Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosett).

Long Island Republicans form the biggest single bloc of votes within the GOP majority in the state Senate and as such have effective veto power over any Island-related initiatives. Support from the eight Republican members of the delegation is key to winning legislative approval for Cuomo.

Cuomo proposed a wish list Tuesday that included creating a third rail for the Long Island Rail Road between Floral Park and Hicksville along with related improvements. The projects would include improving the Ronkonkoma rail station and providing a federal inspection station to allow international flights at MacArthur Airport.

Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) said he was part of local opposition a decade ago against creating a third line in Nassau County, which he felt would increase noise and traffic in neighborhoods. He said he doesn’t see much different in Cuomo’s proposal.

“There is a real sense the governor has gotten this one wrong,” Martins said. “I heard from most of the mayors along the corridor and many of the elected officials along the corridor. Many are surprised, many are angered.”

LaValle specifically rejected one proposal for his district. Cuomo wants to spend $1 million to study whether to dig a deep-water port at the former Shoreham Power plant to relieve roads of some commercial traffic.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) had no immediate comment.

Sen. Tom Croci (R-Sayville) said he welcomes Cuomo’s proposal for his Suffolk County district. He said Cuomo’s plan for a federal inspection station at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma would bring in international flights and investment by nearby companies. Croci also said Cuomo’s plan for improved sewage is a key to Suffolk County’s commercial growth.

“You’re talking about real economic development that will make young people want to live here and retired people want to stay,” he said.

Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) said he supports Cuomo’s proposal for a tunnel from the Island to the Bronx, Westchester County or Connecticut.

“I think it opens up entirely new avenues for economic development,” Boyle said. “All anyone has to do is spend one hour in rush-hour traffic on Long Island to know: the more outlets, the better.”

But Marcellino called the tunnel idea for Oyster Bay too big, too expensive and a bad idea.

Cuomo’s proposals represent an opening salvo in what could become bargaining with the Senate and the Island delegation.

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