Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony Santino is the latest elected official to raise concerns about the Long Island Rail Road’s proposal to build a third track, which he said could pose a danger to children in the town.
In a letter sent Monday to Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman Thomas Prendergast and to LIRR president Patrick Nowakowski, Santino, a Republican, echoed what he said were town residents’ “genuine safety and quality-of-life concerns” over the track, which would stretch nearly 10 miles from Floral Park to Hicksville.
“From Floral Park to Garden City, our constituents have expressed valid apprehensions that the project’s construction will create noise, traffic congestion, pollution and disrupt the ability for first responders to have quick access to them,” Santino wrote.
Eight years after a similar proposal was shelved because of local opposition, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the LIRR resurrected the $1 billion project in January. Proponents say a third track would allow the LIRR to expand its capacity, more easily bounce back from disruptions and better serve reverse commuters traveling to and from jobs on Long Island.
But Santino, in his letter, said residents’ safety should “come first.” He noted that the third track would be constructed adjacent to both Floral Park’s village recreation center and pool complex and the playground of the John Lewis Childs Elementary School, also in Floral Park.
“The prospect of bringing these dangers within a few feet of kids at a neighborhood pool and school is deeply troubling,” Santino wrote.
Nowakowski in an update sent to email subscribers earlier this month said project officials are “considering how to get early input and innovative ideas from the construction industry on ways to minimize construction impacts.”
“We will never stop listening to you and taking your feedback into consideration as the project continues,” Nowakowski said.
Floral Park Mayor Thomas Tweedy, responding to Nowakowski in his own memo to village residents Friday, said that if the LIRR were truly listening, it would have heard communities along the line say, “This process is moving too fast.”
Project officials have been in close contact with community leaders throughout the project area, spokesman Shams Tarek said Tuesday, including meeting with Tweedy more than once in recent weeks.
“We welcome hearing their concerns so that we can work to address them,” he said. “Obviously it’s a priority not to affect children in any negative way. Ultimately the project will improve service, safety and quality of life for hundreds of thousands of people who live, work or travel in and around the project area.”
Tarek also said an ongoing environmental review aims to address and minimize negative impacts to the community.