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Long IslandTransportation

Candidates for Nassau exec spar — gently — over transportation

The candidates for Nassau County executive, Republican Jack

The candidates for Nassau County executive, Republican Jack Martins and Democrat Laura Curran, at the Long Island Contractors Association breakfast on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017, in Woodbury. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Laura Curran and Jack Martins played nice, mostly, on Friday morning during their first public showdown since winning their parties’ nominations for Nassau County executive — an event where the main topic was transportation infrastructure.

Curran, a Democratic county legislator, and Republic standard-bearer Martins, a former state senator and Mineola mayor, both discussed their records on the subject and plans on infrastructure development during a Woodbury breakfast event hosted by the Long Island Contractors Association.

The two nominees briefly embraced before the event. And during his remarks, Martins, standing in front of a seated Curran, thanked his opponent for “sharing the stage and sharing our vision of what’s important” for the county.

“We have the opportunity to have one side win and the other side not lose,” he said.

During her remarks, Curran called out “small-minded local politics” that for years held up the recently approved plan to build a third track on the Long Island Rail Road’s Main Line — a popular project in the room of infrastructure experts. As Mineola mayor, Martins was at the forefront of the opposition to the third track when it was initially proposed about a decade ago.

“Something I’ve noticed we’re lacking here in Nassau County is a vision — a vision of how we grow,” said Curran, who trumpeted her support for public transportation, including her efforts to preserve bus service.

Martins acknowledged that he “fought like hell” to stop the third track, but said opposition forced the LIRR and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to accommodate his concerns about the impact to local communities in their new project proposal.

Also speaking was MTA managing director Veronique Hakim, who promoted the various LIRR infrastructure projects in the pipeline, including the third track, a second track between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma, and improvements to 39 train stations.

She said the efforts aim to address the changing face of the LIRR rider, which increasingly includes part-time workers, freelancers, and reverse-commuters traveling to jobs on Long Island.

“The future of the Long Island Rail Road is about much more than that old 7:12 I used to take from Huntington to Penn Station,” Hakim said. “Today’s relationship between Long Island and New York City is no longer going to be one-directional.”

Marc Herbst, executive director of the Long Island Contractors Association, said the renewed focus on infrastructure by all levels of government is “good news” for the region. Holding up a copy of “The Little Engine That Could,” he delivered a message to elected officials in the room.

“When we face a problem with infratsructure, we need you to say, I think I can,’ ” Herbst said.

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