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LIRR manager holds court at Syosset station

Commuters got to talk to railroad officials as the commuter line kicked off the "Meet Your Manager" series on Wednesday.

LIRR branch line manager Jennifer Uihlein, left, talks

LIRR branch line manager Jennifer Uihlein, left, talks with commuter Caryl Diller at the Syosset station Wednesday morning, part of the railroad's new program to allow commuters to become better acquainted with managers at their stations. Photo Credit: Newsday/Alfonso Castillo

The Long Island Rail Road launched a new program on Wednesday that aims to get customers better acquainted with the people responsible for conditions at their train stations.

The railroad kicked off its “Meet Your Manager” series Wednesday morning at the Syosset station, where branch line manager Jennifer Uihlein spent the morning talking with and listening to commuters about their concerns and suggestions.

“This is exactly what I’ve wanted to do,” said Uihlein, a 15-year LIRR employee and self-described “customer advocate,” who oversees 26 stations from New Hyde Park to Hicksville, and all of the Oyster Bay branch.

Uihlein said although she makes it a point to visit all her stations regularly and chat with customers, the Meet Your Manager events provide “another outlet for us, so they can see us, and we can be more present for them.”

The program is part of the railroad’s “LIRR Forward” initiative, spearheaded by new president Phillip Eng, that aims to improve the commuting experience by upgrading failing infrastructure, hardening the system against severe weather and communicating transparently with customers.

Eng, who hosted a pair of customer forums in Garden City and Ronkonkoma in recent weeks, said the long-term goal is to host Meet Your Manager events at all of the railroad’s 124 stations. In addition to Syosset, branch line managers also met with riders Wednesday at Hempstead and Manhasset.

“By getting out to every station, it’s an opportunity for everybody to have that direct dialogue with the Long Island Rail Road,” said Eng, while visiting the Syosset event Wednesday morning. “I hope customers know they can reach out to us wherever they see us and stop us and offer suggestions.”

At Syosset Wednesday morning, Uihlein, dressed in a bright orange MTA vest, walked back and forth on the crowded station platform during the height of the rush hour, stopping to tell riders, “Good morning,” chat about the weather, and show off plans for a station renovation project set to begin next month that will include a new station building, platform and public art installation.

Some customers brought up concerns about the condition of a deteriorating staircase at the station, which is used by some 6,000 passengers every weekday. Others asked for directions and scheduling information.

On his way to a job interview in Westbury, Cornell Crosby, of Kings Park, asked Uihlein if the next eastbound train stopped at Hicksville. She confirmed that it did.

“Some people get confused and don’t know where to go, don’t know where they are, things like that,” said Crosby, who appreciated having someone available on the station platform to provide answers. “It’s not always like that.”

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