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Sound tunnel opposition meets to plot strategy to halt proposal

Hundreds pack a Bayville school Tuesday night to speak against the billion dollar plan to build the conduit from Oyster Bay to Westchester County. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo supports the project.

A packed room of concerned residents met in Bayville to strategize ways to stop a proposed tunnel between Oyster Bay Town and Westchester County, Tuesday evening, at Bayville Intermediate School. (Credit: Newsday / David Olson)

Hundreds of people jammed into a Bayville school Tuesday night to strategize against Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposal to build a tunnel across Long Island Sound, and local officials vowed to mobilize other communities across the Island to stop it.

Cuomo touted a tunnel in January as an economic catalyst that would relieve traffic congestion on the Long Island Expressway. A study listed a tunnel linking Oyster Bay and Westchester as a viable option.

But Jen Jones, a technology executive and member of an anti-tunnel committee created by Bayville Mayor Paul Rupp, said the tunnel would dump trucks onto Island roads, send exhaust from cars into the air from giant ventilation shafts, harm the environment, and divert money from desperately needed repairs on roads, bridges and mass-transit systems.

“Financially, this is unaffordable and irresponsible,” she told the crowd in the Bayville Intermediate School auditorium that spilled into the hallway outside.

Rupp said a key next step was galvanizing opposition across the Island to the latest of the Sound crossings that have been proposed in various forms since 1938.

Bayville trustee John Taylor, who chairs the village’s anti-tunnel committee, urged residents to challenge those who live in the middle or the south of the Island who may support a tunnel because it could offer a quicker route to Westchester and Connecticut.

“Remind them that their roads are going to be fuller, their beaches are going to be fuller, and there’s going to be more pollution and more congestion,” he said.

Sign-up sheets for anti-tunnel volunteers were circulated in the room, and speakers urged residents to contact elected officials to voice their opposition.

“If we work together, we will defeat this thing,” said Nassau County Legis. Joshua Lafazan, an independent from Woodbury who caucuses with the Democrats. He framed the fight as one to preserve for the next generation “the same quality of life, to grow up with the same safety and environment and housing that we all grew up with.”

Taylor said some people mistakenly downplayed the proposal, saying “it will never happen.”

“The governor is very serious about this, and we’re very serious about stopping it,” he said.

A study conducted by a Montreal consulting firm and issued in January said a Sound tunnel would cost between $31.5 billion and $55.4 billion. It said a Sound crossing — by tunnel, bridge or a combination — is only viable from Oyster Bay Town to Westchester County, or from Kings Park, in Suffolk County, to Connecticut.

In a January speech, Cuomo mentioned only a tunnel, and in a separate announcement that month did not discuss a route to Connecticut.

“The project, however, is still in the formative stages and no decisions have been made with respect to the landing points,” state Department of Transportation spokesman Joseph Morrissey said in a statement Tuesday, adding that the department “is committed to conducting extensive outreach with affected communities.”

Long Island Association president Kevin Law said in a text Tuesday night that Cuomo “deserves credit for thinking big and examining the costs and benefits of a bridge or tunnel which could have significant benefits to the Long Island economy.”

Residents and elected officials disputed that Tuesday and said any benefit from such a shortcut to Connecticut is greatly outweighed by the negatives.

Erich Haller, 75, of Bayville, said the tunnel “is going to destroy the quality of life on the North Shore.”

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