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Main Line mayors clash over LIRR’s third track plan

Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro was joined by Town of Hempstead officials to announce their support for the LIRR third track project on Friday, March 24, 2017, at Westbury Village Hall. He also addressed problems raised by New Hyde Park Mayor Robert Lofaro, who has taken signficant issue with the language used within the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. (Credit: News 12 Long Island)

Several elected leaders from Nassau County took up sides for and against Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposal to expand the Long Island Rail Road at a pair of competing news conferences near the LIRR’s Main Line Friday.

At New Hyde Park Village Hall, Mayor Robert Lofaro hosted dozens of politicians and community residents opposed to the $2 billion proposal to construct a 9.8-mile third track between Floral Park and Hicksville. Speakers included officials from Garden City, Floral Park and the Town of Hempstead, which recently joined forces to commission an engineering study in response to the project’s draft environmental impact statement, which they said lacked important details about the plan.

“The public did not get a fair idea or description of what was actually being done,” Lofaro said of the environmental review, which was released in November and followed by a series of public hearings. “The public is expected to provide input and opinion on a project that has not even been designed yet.”

After word of the New Hyde Park news conference surfaced earlier this week, Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro organized his own news conference at Westbury Village Hall, attended by pro-third track elected officials, including Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino, and representatives of the LIRR and Cuomo’s office.

While Cavallaro said he shared some of the same concerns raised by his fellow Main Line mayors, he believed the project’s draft environmental review provided many answers, and that more would be provided in a final environmental study expected later this year. He said he believed local leaders were better off collaborating with project officials on ways to reduce the impact of a plan that could be “transformative” for Long Island.

“Twenty years from now, there’s going to be a third track. Long Island demands it,” said Cavallaro, who praised the planas potential to ease LIRR commutes, create jobs, and bolster the regionas economy. “The need is there. So, if that’s the case, as elected officials, it’s incumbent on us . . . to be responsible about it and come up with a way to get it done as painless as possible with the most benefit to our residents.”

Seven miles away and an hour later at the New Hyde Park event, elected officials questioned the need for the third track, which they said should not be prioritized over other investments in the 183-year-old railroad.

“Every week, and sometimes daily, we read about how there’s been a delay in the railroad, how signals haven’t worked, how switches haven’t worked, how the structural problems of the railroad have impeded people,” Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) said. “If we do not address those, a third track is just going to have as many delays then as we have now.”

Project officials have said the expansion plan does include upgrading the LIRR’s track infrastructure along the corridor.

Meanwhile, project officials announced Friday that more than 700 women-, minority- and disabled veteran-owned businesses have registered to participate in a special information and networking session on how they take can get involved in the expansion plan. The event is being held March 30 at Antun’s in Queens Village.

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