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MTA panel approves funds for key LIRR projects at planned Belmont Park Arena, Penn Station

Pictured is an aerial view of the current

Pictured is an aerial view of the current LIRR train station and new arena for the New York Islanders under construction at Belmont Park, taken in November. Credit: All Island Aerial / Kevin Coughlin

An MTA committee on Tuesday approved a pair of contracts that will help shape the future of two key Long Island Rail Road stations.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s LIRR committee voted in favor of a $65 million contract for the design and construction of a new Elmont station at the site of the planned Belmont Park Arena. It also approved hiring a consultant for $9.5 million to develop a “master plan” for Penn Station's expansion.

Both contracts will go before the full MTA Board on Thursday for final approval.

The Elmont station aims to serve the 19,000-seat arena being built as the home of the New York Islanders' National Hockey League team. It will include two 12-car platforms, a pedestrian overpass, canopies, lighting, elevators, and audio and visual announcement systems.

The station is scheduled to be in service by October of next year, and fully complete by late 2022.

LIRR president Phillip Eng noted that the vote was largely procedural, and that the railroad would not formally award the $65,077,339 contract to Judlau Contracting Inc. until a formal “memorandum of understanding” is in place for the state and the arena’s private developer, Oak View Group, to reimburse the railroad for the costs, as had been agreed to.

Eng said the agreement is “imminent” and that board approval would avoid unnecessary delays in moving the project ahead. But some MTA Board members expressed concern about greenlighting the contract before the promised funds from the state and the developer are in place. 

“We get pressured into a lot of topics about timing,” board member Neal Zuckerman said. “No one here wants to slow down this massive project. But this is not the first time we’ve had one of these presented to us like this."

The committee also approved paying FX Collaborative/WSP Joint Venture $9,487,651 to help coordinate the various infrastructure projects underway at Penn Station. Those include the ongoing redevelopment of the Farley Post Office into the new Moynihan Train Hall; the expansion of the LIRR concourse at Penn Station; the construction of a new entrance at 33rd Street and Seventh Avenue, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s recent proposal to build eight new tracks just south of the station.

MTA officials in a memorandum to the board said that a master plan is needed to “avoid conflicts, inconsistencies and inefficiencies associated with segmented and uncoordinated redevelopment.”

But MTA Board member Kevin Law, who represents Suffolk County, questioned the necessity of the consultant.

“Why are we going to spend $10 million on a plan, when all these plans have already been announced and some of them are already under construction?” Law asked at the meeting. “Usually, you have a master plan first, and then you design the projects and go forward with the projects.”

MTA chief development officer Janno Lieber clarified that the master plan will aim to “accelerate and figure out specifics on how to execute” the various projects proposed or already underway, including how to link Cuomo’s proposed “Penn South” to the existing Penn Station and what to do with the unused portions of Penn Station once Amtrak moves much of its operation to Moynihan.

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