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East End leaders irked by site of hearing on MTA cuts

Suffolk legislators want an answer to why the Long Island Rail Road may stop almost all train service to Greenport, one year after a new regional tax was enacted.

And they don't want to drive into Nassau County to find out what it is.

Tuesday, William Lindsay (D-Holbrook), presiding officer of the Suffolk legislature, called on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to hold a public hearing in Suffolk County on the proposed cuts.

The MTA wants to run trains from Ronkonkoma to Greenport only on summer weekends, one of several planned cuts for Long Island. It will hold hearings in March on the proposals.

But the only hearing scheduled for Long Island is in Carle Place, about 75 miles from Greenport. Lindsay, in a letter to the MTA, says that's "an intentional slap in the face."

"When you implement a new schedule where the service cuts predominantly affect Suffolk County, and not have a hearing in Suffolk County, that's just awful," he said in an interview.

Lindsay wrote a letter to MTA chairman and chief executive Jay Walder demanding a new meeting, offering the Riverhead Legislative Auditorium site.

An MTA spokesman declined to comment Tuesday.

The MTA's plan has been attacked by legislators who accuse it of taking Suffolk's tax dollars without providing anything in return. Lindsay pointed to last year's bailout bill of the MTA, which imposed a payroll tax on Suffolk and six other counties surrounding New York City. "They can't have it both ways," Lindsay said.

"People are very upset," said Bill Faulk, an aide to Legis. Edward Romaine (R-Center Moriches). "The one and only MTA service that East End residents received is being eliminated."

Romaine and Assemb. Marc Alessi (D-Wading River) have drafted their own letters calling for a hearing.

In an interview Tuesday, Alessi repeated previous calls for Suffolk's eastern five towns to break away from the MTA and form their own transit body. This week, for the first time publicly, MTA officials said they may consider turning over a portion of their system to an Eastern Suffolk regional authority.

Alessi wants a public hearing to include discussion of the idea. "At the end of the day," Alessi said, "we might thank the MTA for bringing up this issue."

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