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Judge tosses Garden City lawsuit challenging Third Track utility poles

Large steel poles beside Merillon Avevenue LIRR station

Large steel poles beside Merillon Avevenue LIRR station in Garden City on Sunday. Credit: Howard Simmons

A lawsuit filed by the Village of Garden City against the MTA over the installation of 120-foot steel utility poles as part of the agency’s Third Track construction project has been dismissed by a state Supreme Court judge.

Judge Diccia Pineda-Kirwin in a seven-page ruling Friday said the village’s suit, filed in February, exceeded the four-month statute of limitations from the Long Island Rail Road project’s 2017 approval. Pineda-Kirwin said that even if it was filed on time, the suit would have been dismissed on its merits as the approvals were ultimately up to the LIRR as lead agency in the environmental review process.

"The lead agency had the duty to comb through reports, analyses and other documents before making its determination, and it is not for the Court to duplicate these efforts or second-guess an agency’s decision," Pineda-Kirwin wrote. "An agency is further granted considerable latitude for the exercise of discretion in the assessment of the environmental outcome of a project."

Among other things, the suit demanded the more than dozen poles be removed and "demolished."

The village’s suit requested a new environmental review process that includes "proper input and comment" in regard to the poles for the project. Pineda-Kirwin said the LIRR conducted robust public outreach and that comments and responses were incorporated into the Final Environmental Impact Statement. The judge noted more than 1,200 people attended six public meetings on the project.

"We believe the Court correctly applied the law given the facts of this case," said MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan on Sunday.

Garden City officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The LIRR expansion project, which covers a 9.8-mile section of rail from Floral Park to Hicksville, includes a third Main Line track. As part of the project, state agencies are relocating electric, gas, water, sewer, communications and signal infrastructure, including poles on the LIRR right of way.

Hundreds of Garden City residents and public officials rallied in protest against the poles last summer, after they first began appearing in March 2020. Garden City is not the only community expected to receive the structures as 93 steel poles are expected to be installed along the project's corridor, according to a document from the LIRR posted on the village's website. The 120-foot length of the poles includes the portion that is buried underground so those structures typically appear 90 to 100 feet tall.

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