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OpinionColumnistsRandi F. Marshall

Marshall: Spot the Town of Hempstead mailer problems

A Town of Hempstead mailer.

A Town of Hempstead mailer. Credit: TOH

“Fight the MONSTER UTILITY POLES in Garden City,” screams a mailer sent by Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin and Hempstead Councilman Thomas Muscarella.

Addressed to “Garden City neighbor,” the mailer calls the placement of utility poles on the south side of the Long Island Rail Road tracks a “sneaky switcheroo during the COVID-19 pandemic,” and says that Clavin and Muscarella are “demanding” that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority move the poles and that the height of the poles be reduced. 

The mailer includes a tear-off postcard – to be sent back to the town – where those signing say they support Clavin and Muscarella “in objecting to the MTA’s and LIRR’s ‘secret’ changes in the Third Track project.”

But there’s a problem that might indicate rushed political maneuvering involved in the mailing. The postcard is addressed to “MTA President Andy Byford and LIRR President Phillip Eng.”

The chairman and chief executive of the MTA is Pat Foye, who lives in Port Washington and previously worked in Nassau County government. Andy Byford is the former president of the New York City Transit Authority, who previously handled subways and buses but resigned last winter.

Then there’s the other problem. At one point, the postcard gives Muscarella a promotion, calling him “supervisor” in text next to his picture. 

The utility poles are part of the LIRR’s third track project. The height of the poles – about 90 feet above ground – hasn’t changed since the initial environmental review in 2017. The location of the poles initially was left to be determined. The MTA had planned for the poles to be on the north side of the tracks, but as early as last September, village representatives were briefed on the possibility that some poles would be placed on the south side.  

Town officials could not immediately say how many people received the mailer, or how much it cost, or who in town government is that incompetent not to know who is the head of the MTA.

A town spokesman released a statement to The Point, saying: “It really doesn’t matter since the same old MTA bureaucrats have refused to meet with the town on this issue, which is adversely affecting residents.”

It’s a bit unclear how some steel poles “adversely” affect residents. But MTA spokeswoman Meredith Daniels noted in a statement that the LIRR's third track project already has seen "rigorous environmental review, regular meetings with towns and villages along the corridor, and robust community outreach."

"The Town of Hempstead is literally mailing it in when it comes to this laughable 'strategy' that, typos aside, serves to highlight how out of touch some politicians are with the process," Daniels said. "None of what’s happening now is a surprise—except evidently to a town supervisor who never bothered to show up.”

If Clavin wants changes to the third track project going forward, he might start by familiarizing himself with who’s in charge at the MTA.