Commuters battle cold temperatures as they wait for the LIRR...

Commuters battle cold temperatures as they wait for the LIRR at the Mineola station on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014 in Mineola. Credit: Howard Schnapp

I am writing to you on behalf of a significant number of Long Island Rail Road customers being left out in the cold.

Bob Bruder, LIRR customer, 23 years and counting

Bruder typically takes the 7:26 a.m. train from East Williston. His complaint was this: The train pulls into the station a few minutes after 7 and, for most of the time between its arrival and departure, commuters were stuck on the outside looking in.

"It's a great train because East Williston is its starting point, assuring each rider will get a seat for the journey into NYC (something that is becoming a rare occurrence on the LIRR these days)," Bruder wrote in an email. "The problem is that although the train pulls in about 7:05, passengers aren't permitted to board until after they're forced to stand on the platform in the cold, rain and snow."

He said a number of commuters had asked train staff why doors are kept closed until the last minute but "no one seems to have a clear answer."

Just in time for the mid-November winter blast, the railroad told us it had arranged for the doors to open each day 10 minutes before departure.

"Beginning Monday, November 17, the crew of the 7:26 AM peak weekday train from East Williston will be opening their train doors 10 minutes prior to departure during the cold weather," spokesman Salvatore Arena said in an email.

"It is obviously the considerate thing to do," he wrote. "To conserve energy, they will open up every other door on the train."

And the rationale for the practice of keeping doors closed until the last minute? "LIRR crews on trains idling at a point of origination may open train doors up to 10 minutes before departure. In fact, we prefer that they do," Arena said. But the door-opening decision "is ultimately left to the crew's discretion so that they have flexibility to deal with any circumstance that may arrive."

On a recent morning of bitter cold -- Nov. 20, the day Long Island MacArthur Airport reported a record low for the date of 22 degrees -- Newsday photographer Audrey Tiernan arrived moments after the train pulled in to find the doors open. One day earlier, commuter Paul Navarra of Williston Park said, the doors had stayed shut until just before the train's departure.

Bruder conceded that establishing a new door-opening routine could pose a challenge, in part because the train doesn't have the same crew every day. As winter sets in, he hopes paying customers can board rather than stand on the open-air platform, peering through the windows, "with icicles on their noses."

I've lived on the Long Island Expressway's north service road for over 45 years. In that time, two hemlock trees between the road and sidewalk have tripled in size, lifting and breaking the concrete. I've notified Nassau County because the sidewalks are really hard to walk on, so most people walk on the service road itself. It's unsafe.

-- Nicholas Albanese, Roslyn Heights

We learned of the issue in March, when Albanese sent a handwritten letter recounting his efforts to find out who is responsible for the sidewalk.

In subsequent phone conversations, he indicated some progress was being made. When August arrived, with the sidewalk still in disarray, he asked us to help.

We reached out to the Town of North Hempstead, which handles sidewalk repair on both town and county roads within its borders. Town spokeswoman Carole Trottere said town records indicated Albanese reported the issue in July and a service request was generated for the Highway Department to inspect and remove the trees.

However, she said, trees located along the LIE's service road fall under the jurisdiction of the county itself.

"When the request was reviewed, it was determined that the trees are not maintained by the town, but the county," Trottere said in an email on Sept. 25. "We have recently filed a request with the county informing them that we received a request regarding trees and sidewalk repair at this location, and that they should inspect the trees for appropriate action."

As an interim measure, the town removed the uneven sections of sidewalk and laid down asphalt to "transition around and over the roots," Trottere said. The town will install concrete after the tree work is complete, she said, adding that either the trees will be removed or the roots cut back.

Nassau Public Works Department spokesman Mike Martino said the county "is investigating the matter and will work with the Town of North Hempstead to address the situation as soon as possible."

The town "did a terrific job on the asphalt, but of course that's only temporary," Albanese said.

North Hempstead residents can report sidewalk issues to the town's 311 line. Sidewalk District staff will determine whether short-term repair or replacement is needed.

NewsdayTV's Elisa DiStefano and Newsday food writer Marie Elena Martinez take a look at the hottest places to dine on Long Island this summer.  Credit: Randee Daddona; Newsday / A.J. Singh

A taste of summer on Long Island NewsdayTV's Elisa DiStefano and Newsday food writer Marie Elena Martinez take a look at the hottest places to dine on Long Island this summer. 

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