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Preservationists eye saving Mineola buildings from demolition in LIRR third track project

The LIRR plans to demolish Nassau Tower to

The LIRR plans to demolish Nassau Tower to make room for the third track expansion project in Mineola. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Long Island Rail Road plans to demolish three of its older buildings in Mineola as part of the third-track expansion project, but the village historical society is trying to persuade officials not to raze the structures. 

Nassau Tower built in 1923, the Mineola Electrical Substation built in 1910, and the South Station House built in 1923 are slated to be removed. The tower is on a portion of land where the third track will be constructed. The substation land will be replaced with a commuter drop-off space, according to MTA plans.

LIRR officials said Wednesday that removing the buildings will allow for better train service for commuters. Mineola Historical Society members said they'd rather have the buildings moved. 

"We would like to save the brick substation from being demolished for a kiss and drop," said society member Tom Redmond, referring to the impending commuter drop-off space. "That drop-off can be provided on the property with the substation remaining." 

Redmond said the LIRR should revisit a November 2005 proposal between the railroad and the Village of Mineola in which Nassau Tower would be moved out of the way of the impending third track. 

LIRR officials said they conducted an environmental impact review in 2016 for the third-track project that included how construction would impact historic sites along the 9.8-mile Main Line. The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation concluded that demolishing Nassau Tower and the substation is unavoidable but requested the LIRR hire a historian to document the structures. That assessment has been completed, said MTA spokeswoman Liz Gutierrez. 

"These LIRR-owned structures must be removed to improve station access and enable a new third track," Gutierrez said. "The LIRR Expansion Project went through a rigorous environmental review and public outreach process, including procedures for the evaluation of historic resources along the corridor." 

Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss said he understands that losing the buildings could generate strong reaction among some residents, but the village's history isn't tied to the LIRR. 

"Ultimately, our community’s culture is made up by our residents, our business owners and their history, not buildings,” Strauss said. 

But historical society member Michael Marinak said the three buildings should be saved because Mineola's history is Nassau County's history.  

"If you talk about Mineola, the [county] courthouses are here and the hospitals, so everything is in Mineola as far as Nassau County is concerned," Marinak said. "So, if where we are is the county seat, why not save as much as we possibly can?"

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