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Transit news: Track worker killed, WiFi coming to Grand Central

In the first death of a city transit worker in three years, a 45-year-old father was electrocuted in the Rockaways while supervising track maintenance yesterday morning, leaving union officials to question why crews were sent near the third rail in the rain.

“It’s a recipe for disaster,” said John Samuelsen, president of the Transport Workers Union Local 100.

Samuelsen said track workers are particularly vulnerable to accidents during the morning rush hour, when they find themselves having to rush off the tracks.

James Knell, 45, of East Rockaway, Long Island, died around 4:30 a.m. after he slipped and fell on the electrified rail at the Beach 90th Street station on the A line, transit officials said. Work crews were clearing off the tracks right before the MTA reactivated the third rail to restore service after weekend work. Union officials believe Knell was clearing off tools that were left behind.

“The investigation is ongoing,” said NYC Transit president Thomas Prendergast.

Knell, a transit employee for 13 years, is survived by his wife and two step-children. He was a Queens native and avid fisherman, said Samuelsen, who worked with him.

Other transit developments Monday:
— Wi-Fi will be coming to Grand Central Terminal by 2013 through a no-cost agreement with four cellular carriers.

— Tax revenues for the MTA slipped by another $72 million in April, bringing the agency’s budgetary hole to around $450 million in 2010. MTA officials intend to see how finances play out next month before deciding whether to make more cuts.

— The MTA board will vote tomorrow on a $1 billion deal to lease the Hudson Rail Yards to the Related Companies. Related will shell out a 5 percent down payment slower than expected, but the deal otherwise mirrors their tentative agreement with the developer in 2008, officials said.

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