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LIRR commuters warned to prepare for possible July strike

Mark Epstein, Chairman of the Long Island Rail

Mark Epstein, Chairman of the Long Island Rail Road Commuter's Council, speaks with Michael Calabrese, left, of Merrick, and his brother Dominick Calabrese of Ronkonkoma, right, as Epstein passed along information about union negotiations at Penn Station Monday, June 23, 2014. Credit: Craig Ruttle

LIRR commuter advocates Monday warned riders at Penn Station to prepare for a possible strike next month and urged them to have backup plans for getting to work, including carpools, and consider staying in the city.

About a dozen representatives of the LIRR Commuter Council handed out leaflets to riders suggesting they organize carpools with co-workers and friends, find out if their employers will provide transportation and share housing with family and friends in the city if railroad workers walk off the job July 20. The council also urged LIRR riders to ask their employers about working off hours and being reimbursed for hotels.

"If a LIRR strike occurs, traffic will be severe and parking will be limited in Manhattan and surrounding areas," reads the leaflet written in red letters.

"Right now, their position is that commuters should stay home, take their vacation time or work from home," said Mark Epstein, chairman of the LIRR Commuter Council. "Well, what about the construction workers and hospital workers who have to be at their jobs? We can't shut down the economic engine of New York City."

MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said railroad officials "were still developing plans" with other agencies. They could include adding HOV lanes on the Long Island Expressway and running additional private buses to the city, he said.

However, he urged commuters to stay home and avoid traveling.

"Take a vacation," he said. "And if you have to take a bus it will be double the normal time."

Rick Budke, 29, of Port Jefferson said his boss told him Monday that working from home would be allowed during a strike -- for a short time.

"I can work from home, but not more than a few days," Budke said, shaking his head. "I don't think he's going to like me not coming in."

Helane Anthony of Long Beach said she must report to work. "I work for the state, so my husband will have to drive me to Far Rockaway to take the A train. That will [add] an extra 40 minutes in my commute each way," she said, adding her boss may help arrange carpools for Long Island employees.

Dominick Calabrese, 50, of Ronkonkoma, said taking a bus to the city "will be insane. It will take double the time. I don't want to give into the panic but I will have to stay with family in Queens."

Michael Miller, 50, of East Northport, who works in Manhattan, said, "I'm more worried about a possible fare increase."

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