Some Long Island Rail Road passengers who use Wyandanch train station say construction of the $500 million Wyandanch Rising project near the tracks is playing havoc with their commutes.
Some say riders who board westbound trains on a typical weekday have to park farther away from the station, in temporary lots that slow car access to a trickle at peak commute hours and aren't adequately lit at night.
Some train platform entrances have been closed, they say, adding to the confusion, with fenced-in paths one customer likened to cattle chutes. They also say that there has been little warning about many of the changes from Babylon Town, which manages the lots, or from the LIRR, whose role in Wyandanch Rising is building a parking garage.
"When you base your schedule on a train schedule, everything is planned to the minute, from when you get out of your car, to how long it takes to get from your car to the platform," said Kerry Gagliardo, 44, a North Babylon resident who described her first 15 years of commuting to a media industry job in Manhattan as relatively headache-free. Lately though, "it's been an absolute nightmare."
Babylon officials say Wyandanch Rising will revitalize one of the town's poorest hamlets. The project calls for 177 apartments and more than 100,000 square feet of retail and commercial space under development by the Albanese Organization, all within walking distance of the train station.
Town officials say some of the disruption will be eased after repaving on Acorn Street -- which has two branches that form a triangle with Straight Path that encompasses much of the construction and parking areas -- is finished later this year. In the meantime, they say, they're doing everything they can to minimize the disruptions, from building extra temporary parking spaces to placing advisory leaflets on windshields.
"At the end of the day there's going to be a minor inconvenience to everybody who commutes, with a construction project of this size, this close to the tracks. We feel we've done a more than adequate job," town spokesman Kevin Bonner said.
LIRR spokesman Sal Arena wrote in an emailed statement that the railroad is working with the town to minimize the impact of Wyandanch Rising construction on commuters. LIRR public information on the parking changes involves "regular notices and updates on multiple platforms, including public address announcements, electronic sign messages, customer alerts via email, text and tweets, website postings as well as the placement of directional signage in the station area," he wrote.
There are now more parking spaces -- 1,019 compared with the 977 that existed before the start of construction, said Jonathan Keyes, the town's downtown redevelopment director.
Some of those will be lost to future construction, he said, but a $29 million LIRR garage at the site is expected to add 920 pay spaces after its completion next spring. The town expects to keep about 500 free, first-come, first-served spaces outside, he said.
Getting into and out of the parking lots by car should get easier as well, Keyes said, when traffic controls are installed and cement barriers are removed. Keyes said the town would investigate the lighting in the parking lots. In the meantime, he said, many town residents who've spoken to him about Wyandanch Rising make a point to tell him "what a great thing you're doing for the community," Keyes said.
That sentiment appears not to be unanimous. "They don't consider the commuter," said Donna Antonacci, of Dix Hills, a 15-year commuter who works in Jersey City in financial services. "They're so worried about making this all pretty and, at the end of the day, it's the commuter who's paying taxes for that."