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Chuck Schumer: MTA should address dangerous grade crossing

The MTA says the stretch of tracks in Garden City was only used by Ringling Bros. Circus and by LIRR maintenance vehicles.

On Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017, Sen. Chuck Schumer is calling for safety improvements at a Garden City railroad grade crossing where trains go by with no protections for drivers or pedestrians. The crossing at Washington Avenue and St. James Street has no flashing red lights or safety gates to warn and protect the community from passing trains. (Credit: Barry Sloan)

Sen. Chuck Schumer is calling for safety improvements at a Garden City railroad grade crossing where he says trains go by with no protections for drivers or pedestrians.

Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday visited the crossing at Washington Avenue and St. James Street, where there are no flashing red lights or safety gates to warn and protect the community from passing trains. In addition, traffic lights near the crossing are often green, even as a train is passing — as photographed by one motorist.

“This photo should be a red flashing light for the MTA to realize this isn’t a safe intersection,” said Schumer, who called on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to consult with the surrounding Garden City community on a solution. “That should happen right away . . . We don’t want it to be an accident waiting to happen.”

The man who took the photo, Ken Falcon, of Rockville Centre, said he was driving with his 3-year-old son when the green light directed him to proceed through the tracks as the train was going by.

“What would make sense at the very least is that when a train is coming by, the light isn’t green,” Falcon, 31, said.

MTA officials said Monday that the stretch of track, which is not used by Long Island Rail Road passenger trains, was only used once a year by the now-defunct Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to transport equipment and performers to the Nassau Coliseum, as well as by LIRR maintenance vehicles. No additional train activity is expected, they said.

MTA officials added that trains pass through the crossing at only 5 mph and that crew members step off the train to safely direct traffic. There are no records of any accidents at the crossing in the last five years, they said.

“Safety is the LIRR’s top priority,” railroad spokesman Aaron Donovan said. “We will review Senator Schumer’s proposals — and welcome him to reach out directly to us.”

Schumer’s spokesman Angelo Roefaro said his office did work with the MTA on the issue, “but did not receive clear answers on neighborhood concerns or usage.”

Despite the agency’s statement, Greg Stanek, who lives near the tracks, said trains come by “four-to-five times a week,” often late at night. But, he said, the trains travel at slow speeds and he has seen crew members stand at the crossings to prevent vehicles from going through it.

“If you hit it, there’s something wrong,” Stanek, 41, said. “It’s big, loud and slow. I can’t imagine how it could cause a safety danger.”

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