Plans to build a tunnel, bridge or a combination of the two under or across the Long Island Sound would be anything but sound, according to members of a recently formed coalition in opposition to the proposed project.
Heather Johnson, president of the nonpartisan Coalition Against An UnSound Crossing, was joined by more than a dozen lawmakers from the Oyster Bay area and across Long Island at Syosset-Woodbury Community Park on Wednesday, to announce the group’s intent to fight the concept touted by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in his State of the State speech in January.
The coalition — which includes supporters such as Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino and state Assemblymen Michael Montesano (R-Glen Head), Edward Ra (R-Franklin Square) and Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove), all of whom were present at Wednesday's meeting — cited its concerns the project would disrupt Long Island’s sole-source aquifer and harm the environment at large, including the Oyster Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
“For almost a century, state leaders have looked to build a crossing, and for almost a century, environmental activists and concerned local residents have come out in force to block these plans,” said Peter Janow, the coalition’s executive director. “Our mission is to provide the same detailed facts on environmental impacts, traffic studies and economic concerns that have resulted in the end of these proposals for so many decades.”
Janow said the nonprofit group is looking for donations to hire experts to conduct a study to counter a $5 million state-commissioned study that found a Sound crossing is viable only from the Town of Oyster Bay to Westchester, or from Kings Park to Connecticut. That study projected a cross-Sound tunnel would cost between $31.5 billion and $55.4 billion, and spur “new opportunities for economic growth in the region.”
Janow said there are other infrastructure projects needed in the region to which the billions of dollars necessary for a proposed tunnel would be better allocated.
On Wednesday, when asked of his plans for the project, Cuomo said there was a need to explore options for transportation alternatives off Long Island.
“Long Island is like a Coke bottle, geographically, and all of Long Island comes down and is compressed in Queens, coming into Manhattan. And it is a traffic nightmare,” Cuomo said. “They’ve been talking about a bridge from the East End of Long Island, from the middle point of Long Island. They’ve been talking about tunnels. But, long term, we have to improve mass transit, which we’re doing, but you also need to find a way to move vehicular traffic better, and we’re studying options. We have no specific option at this time. We’re just studying a number of options.”
Iris Blumenthal, 75, of Syosset, said she is concerned the 18-mile tunnel would have irreversible negative impact on Long Island, not only in the Oyster Bay area but out east as well.
“Huge corporations, including Amazon have indicated their interest in acquiring diminishing farmlands out east for the erection of huge warehouses to store merchandise that the tunnel will facilitate the movement of, thereby further increasing east-west traffic,” Blumenthal said. “All in all, a bad idea.”
With Matthew Chayes