Two LIRR commuters have filed a lawsuit against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority alleging that repeated train delays "reaching their highest in 10 years" and equipment breakdowns constitute a breach of contract.
The suit, filed Saturday in New York State Supreme Court in Mineola, alleges that the Long Island Rail Road has failed “to provide passengers with any semblance of comfort or safety.” It also alleges that train delays and cancellations have caused overcrowding and dangerous situations.
The plaintiffs seek unspecified damages and legal fees.
The court filing cites media reports of frequent LIRR disruptions during the evening rush hour. The recent service problems have driven rider complaints as Amtrak begins track work next month at Penn Station, which it owns and operates.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has warned of a “summer of hell” because of delays expected to be caused by the project that is set to begin July 10 at the aging Manhattan hub, where the LIRR operates most trains. The railroad carries more than 230,000 passengers through the station daily.
“We have to do something before it becomes the summer of hell,” said attorney Paul Liggieri, of Manhattan-based Derek Smith Law Group PLLC, which filed the suit.
Liggieri, who filed the suit on behalf of Meredith Jacobs of Wantagh and Fred Lee of Uniondale, said riders want answers and taking the MTA to court is “the only way the MTA is going to answer for anything.”
Aaron Donovan, an MTA spokesman, said Sunday that “we don’t comment on pending litigation.”
MTA Board member Mitchell Pally, of Stony Brook, said Sunday that while there had been breakdowns and delays, many were due to decades of deferred maintenance by Amtrak.
“We have to hope that they will correct the deficiencies as soon as possible,” Pally said. The situation is about to get worse, he said, with a revised schedule due to be released Monday that will cut rush-hour service during track repairs at Penn Station this summer.
Pally said Sunday that the MTA, the LIRR’s parent agency, is doing its best to fix the system and a lawsuit won’t change that. “I don’t think litigation is the way to move forward,” he said.
The suit seeks class-action status for anyone who had a monthly pass in May.
“In the month of May . . . there was a pattern and practice by the LIRR of constant cancellations and delays and overall headaches,” Liggieri said. “Monthly card holders are people who ride the rail every single day and expect a certain level of service, most of which is to carry them to and from work and that’s how they earn their livelihood.”
“This is a harbinger of things to come if riders feel they are being ignored,” Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), who has pushed for major improvements at Penn Station for LIRR commuters, said in an email Sunday. “Right now, commuters are bracing for a terrible summer, have endured horrendous delays, and are looking for any solutions — we should not be surprised if they take matters into their own hands to force change.”