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Officials to Amtrak: Cease control of commute-snarled Penn Station

LIRR commuters rally against the unprecedented delays and

LIRR commuters rally against the unprecedented delays and cancellations riders faced recently, and to demand Amtrak relinquish control of Penn Station on Saturday, May 13, 2017, in Rockville Centre. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Long Island officials and frustrated commuters on Saturday called on Amtrak to cease its control of Penn Station, citing a series of snarled rush hours.

The “Rally for a Sane Commute,” held under the railroad tracks in Rockville Centre, drew about 50 people on a rain-swept morning.

“We stand here today united because Long Island commuters should not have to take it anymore,” Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) told the crowd. “We’re tired of being treated like second-class citizens, having our work lives and personal lives turned upside down.”

Kaminsky said a bad situation will get worse, at least in the short term: The Long Island Rail Road faces a 25 percent reduction in service this summer while Amtrak makes repairs to four tracks. He said Amtrak should stop managing Penn Station, where it hosts only 8 percent of commuters, compared to the 53 percent who ride the LIRR.

The latest breakdown Wednesday, plaguing the evening rush hour, was caused by an Amtrak dispatcher error, Kaminsky said.

Amtrak officials, however, maintain that the summer track work will significantly reduce the number of disruptions.

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have called for Amtrak to turn over control of the aging transit hub to a private operator.

Assemb. Michaelle Solages (D-Valley Stream) said at the rally that she was stuck in a tunnel for 30 minutes during Wednesday’s snafu.

“We’re tired of the MTA and Amtrak taking advantage of ridership,” Solages said. “This is not respect for riders. We deserve better.”

Also on hand were Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford), Assembs. Dave McDonough (R-Merrick) and Brian Curran (R-Lynbrook), Nassau County legislator Laura Curran (D-Baldwin), Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman and Rockville Centre Mayor Francis Murray.

Some commuters told horror stories of having to wait hours for a train.

“It’s been a horrendous commute, especially coming home,” said Norma Mondonedo, 52, of Freeport.

She said she now stops drinking water at work at 3 p.m., “because I don’t know if I’ll be stuck on a train and can’t use the bathroom.”

Allison Blanchette, 43, who commutes from Long Beach to New York City, said it’s not fair that fares have gone up while service has faltered — and riders squeeze onto overcrowded trains.

“It’s so uncomfortable and undignified to stand in a bathroom because you have no other place to stand,” she said.

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