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Ruling favors LIRR in impasse with Garden City on Third Track project

The placement of tall utility poles is at

The placement of tall utility poles is at the heart of a feud between the Village of Garden City and the LIRR.   Credit: Howard Simmons

A state Supreme Court justice has ordered the Village of Garden City to grant the permits needed by the Long Island Rail Road to move forward with its plan to construct a 10-mile-long third track between Floral Park and Hicksville.

The ruling Thursday by Justice Helen Voutsinas could break the impasse between the village and the LIRR, which have been feuding over the placement of several 90-foot utility poles that residents say are too close to their homes. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority — the LIRR’s parent organization — has said the village has withheld permits needed for the replacement of a rail bridge across Denton Avenue as retaliation.

The village has said the railroad did not follow the proper review process for its proposed redesign of the roadway below the bridge.

MTA officials have said the $2.6 billion Third Track project, formally known as the LIRR Expansion, could miss its targeted December 2022 completion date, and go over budget, if the bridge work doesn’t move ahead quickly. In June, the MTA petitioned the court to force the village to issue the permits.

In her ruling, Voutsinas said the LIRR and MTA "have established their entitlement" to the permits for the bridge work, and that issues related to the redesign of the roadway could be addressed separately. She also dismissed the assertion that the project would harm the community and wrote that "in fact, the Village stands to benefit from the Denton Avenue Bridge Project."

In a statement, Anthony Tufano, project executive for the LIRR Main Line Expansion, or Third Track, said the MTA hopes the ruling means the village will grant the needed permits and "really starts to work with us and be our partners, not our adversaries."

"All the other communities along the project corridor work closely with us because they realize the benefits this project will bring at the end of the day," Tufano said. "We know construction is invasive but we really want to finish the Mainline Expansion Project to bring our riders, the surrounding communities and the region the benefits they all deserve."

Village officials have not responded to repeated requests for comment on the case.

In a recent statement on the village’s website, Mayor Cosmo Veneziale said the MTA "has repeatedly misled the local municipalities and their residents affected, and ignored their obligations imposed by law."

"While Garden City early on sought to engage with it in an effort to protect its residents and ensure that the project proceed on time, the MTA has consistently engaged in a blatant ‘bait and switch’ and ignored its promises and assurances to the Village," Veneziale wrote.

Village officials and residents have said the railroad told them the utility poles would be erected on the north side of the tracks near Merillon Avenue, in a largely industrial area. Instead, the poles were put up on the south side, across the street from some homes. The LIRR has said — and a court ruling agreed — that it made no promises about where the poles would go.

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