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An empty feeling on LIRR's West Hempstead branch

Yellow caution tape with an attached sign advising

Yellow caution tape with an attached sign advising potential LIRR riders that weekend service has been eliminated on the West Hempstead Branch. (Sept. 18, 2010) Photo Credit: Kevin P Coughlin

Each of the five stations on the Long Island Rail Road's West Hempstead branch remained empty and riders were absent Saturday - the first day since weekend service on the line was eliminated.

Yellow tape blocked entrances to the train platforms at each station, and signs told of the service cut. Recorded announcements reiterated that weekend trains are a thing of the past.

The elimination of the branch's 17 weekend trains is aimed at helping the struggling Metropolitan Transportation Authority close a $900-million budget gap. The cutback will save $474,000 a year, officials have said.

LIRR officials had advised the 350 customers who usually travel to or from one of the branch's stations - Westwood, Malverne, Lakeview, Hempstead Gardens and West Hempstead - to instead use stations on the Long Beach and Hempstead lines.

At Lakewood Stables in West Hempstead, Tish Talia, a manager, said Saturday that she expects a drop in profits because 10 percent to 20 percent of the stable's weekend customers used the weekend trains to travel from the city.

"It's definitely going to affect us," she said. "It doesn't seem right. A lot of people do live here because of the trains."

Marion LoCascio, who has lived in Malverne for 33 years, agreed. She said her husband takes the train to work during the week.

"We bought a house in Malverne so he can walk to the train," she said. While the elimination of weekend service does not affect her husband's ability to get to work, she said she fears the cuts could affect their home's property value.

LoCascio, 59, an administrative assistant, admitted she never took the train from the Malverne station herself. On weekends, she said, she often drives to the Valley Stream station, on the Far Rockaway branch, to take trains to the city, because trains there are more frequent.

Near the Lakeview station, Uwe Riggers, 64, co-owner of Lake-Park Delicatessen, said the cuts came as a surprise to him because officials had been remodeling the station house.

"It doesn't make sense," he said.

At the West Hempstead station, which remained deserted throughout the early morning, one would-be commuter made a dash to the platform before learning that weekend train service had been eliminated. When asked about the service, the frazzled man said he was late to work for a job in Manhattan and had to find alternative transportation.

Now, anyone accustomed to riding weekend trains on the West Hempstead branch also will have to make new plans.

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