The Long Island Rail Road is investigating how an LIRR building in Mineola was demolished Monday morning as part of the Third Track project and partially collapsed onto an adjacent building, trapping workers inside, railroad union officials said.
The incident happened around 8 a.m. Monday, as contractors used construction equipment to take down a decommissioned electrical substation building on Main Street, just east of Mineola Station, according to Christopher Natale, general chairman of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen Local 56, which represents LIRR signal workers.
Natale said the contractors carried out the demolition as four signal workers were inside a signal tower right next to the structure.
"Without checking, they just started demolishing it," Natale said.
Photos from the scene show rubble from the collapsed building partially burying a door at the adjacent building. "My guys got trapped inside there," said Natale, adding that the workers escaped through a window. "They're lucky nobody got killed."
Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Aaron Donovan said the MTA is investigating the incident, which did not involve any injuries.
He said safety remains the agency's top priority, and that crews closed the road to traffic during the project. Donovan added that the project aims to improve safety, including by eliminating dangerous railroad grade crossings.
"Everything about this project is rooted in safety," Donovan said.
But LIRR labor leaders have said the MTA and the Third Track contractors have prioritized speed over safety in carrying out the project, which will add a 10-mile long Third Track between Floral Park and Hicksville.
Anthony Simon, who heads the LIRR's largest union, called the incident a "disgrace." Simon, who visited the scene Tuesday, said the contractors should have checked and secured the adjacent building before taking down the substation structure.
"The MTA’s relentless goals on these capital projects so they can meet deadlines for ribbon-cutting ceremonies and press conferences has now began to compromise the safety of our workforce," he said.