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Long Island

Restoration of W. Hempstead weekend service gets warm reception

Residents living and working along the Long Island Rail Road's West Hempstead line spoke Monday largely in support of restoring weekend service on the branch.

About two dozen people attended a public hearing at Malverne Village Hall to discuss the LIRR's plan to bring back weekend West Hempstead service, eliminated in 2010.

Beginning Nov. 22, the LIRR will run trains every two hours on weekends and holidays in both directions on the branch. Overall, speakers at the hearing said they would welcome the return of weekend service, on which residents and businesses relied for decades.

"The utter perfection of life in Malverne has always included its proximity to Manhattan," said Ellen Levy, whose family has lived in the village for 61 years. "Please give us back our trains."

Not everyone was thrilled by weekend trains returning.

Lynbrook resident Susan Ulrich, who lives near the branch's tracks, said the loud trains routinely wake her 1-year-old daughter. Ulrich, who is selling her home, said the primary complaint she hears from potential buyers is "the Long Island Rail Road runs through your back yard."

The elimination of weekend trains on the West Hempstead line was among one of the more severe service cuts from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's effort in 2010 to close a $900 million budget gap. The LIRR targeted the line because of relatively low ridership. The agency said at then that only about 350 people rode on the line on weekends.

Some speakers noted Monday that new residential developments and businesses have sprung up in the past four years, and have struggled to attract residents and customers without LIRR weekend service.

"Not having weekend service is a huge detriment to our community," said Alex Jacobson, owner of the New York Equestrian Center in West Hempstead, two blocks from the Lakeview LIRR station. Jacobson said more than a dozen customers, and a few employees, access his business by train, but can't do so on weekends.

LIRR president Patrick Nowakowski at the hearing said the LIRR's increasing ridership, on pace to have grown for the second year in a row, helped make restoration of weekend West Hempstead service possible.

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