Public hearings next week on the Long Island Rail Road’s plan to build a third track on its Main Line should be put on hold until the state releases more details on the project, including how long it will take and how residents and commuters will be impacted, elected officials said Thursday.
A group of about two dozen representatives of state and local governments, school districts and affected communities gathered at the LIRR’s Mineola station to urge Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to apply the brakes on the megaproject, which he proposed in January.
The state earlier this month announced that six informational meetings will be held in Westbury, Hicksville, New Hyde Park and Hempstead over two days next week.
Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) said that as the state has fast-tracked the project, it has failed to provide essential information, such as where construction would begin, how the new track would be aligned, how it would affect LIRR service, and how close it would be to homes along the 9.8-mile path.
“These details, I’m sure, exist,” said Martins, a longtime opponent of the project. “The railroad has a great saying: ‘If you see something, say something.’ In this case we’re not seeing the kind of details we need, so we are ... going to say something.”
Cuomo and Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials have said the third track, which would stretch from Floral Park to Hicksville, would expand the LIRR’s capacity to serve growing ridership, help it bounce back from service disruptions, and help move commuters traveling to and from jobs on Long Island.
The mayors of eight incorporated villages through which the third track would run also expressed concern at the project’s “alarming pace” in a letter Thursday to the Nassau County Village Officials Association. The self-dubbed “Mainline Mayors” called for additional meeting dates and “at more convenient times.” Half of next week’s meetings are scheduled to begin on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.
Cuomo spokeswoman Beth DeFalco said the project, estimated to cost $1 billion, is following a process dictated by law. Before a draft proposal, including many of the details sought by the local officials, can be released, an environmental review must be performed. The meetings next week are aimed at gathering the public’s input on what should be studied as part of that review, DeFalco said.
In preparation for next week’s meeting, New Hyde Park Mayor Robert LoFaro hosted a public meeting Thursday attended by about 100 village residents to urge them to make their specific concerns known to state officials, including over the potential for more freight trains and construction.
“You shouldn’t be influenced by the marketing. You should be influenced what’s right for you, what’s right for your home,” Lofaro told the audience.