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Driving the LIRR

LIRR president Phil Eng.

LIRR president Phil Eng. Credit: Amanda Fiscina

Good afternoon and welcome to The Point! Today we had a visit from Phil Eng, the LIRR’s new president. Read below for some of what he shared with us.

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Daily Point

Getting the LIRR on track

Long Island Rail Road President Phil Eng met with the Newsday editorial board for a two-hour, wide-ranging conversation on Tuesday afternoon.

One of the many things we learned during his first visit to our Melville office is that he thinks of Belmont Park as a potential full-service transit hub in the future — one that can accommodate the planned development at the site and also meet the growing needs of the neighboring communities.

And that means anything’s possible for the future of the LIRR station at Belmont, Eng told the board.

“Let’s not limit ourselves in terms of our imagination,” Eng said. “I need to be prepared for this thing happening. It’s going to happen.”

Eng said his ultimate goal would be to create “a full station that supports the development but also fits the community.”

Eng, who was involved in community meetings about the LIRR’s third track project while he was at the state Department of Transportation, said he hopes the LIRR can take lessons from that effort when planning for Belmont, especially in terms of “the railroad being a good neighbor.”

The LIRR president said he plans to meet with Belmont’s developers — a consortium known as New York Arena Partners that includes the New York Islanders; Sterling Project Development, the real estate arm of the Wilpon family, who own the New York Mets; and Oak View Group, which is backed in part by Madison Square Garden. Besides a new hockey arena, the developers are planning a hotel, retail, and community facilities for the land at Belmont.

Eng said in the internal conversations he already has had about the site, he has taken an optimistic view, saying all options should be on the table to make Belmont’s LIRR service expansion possible.

“If there’s an opportunity to be part of this . . . we shouldn’t dismiss it and say we can’t afford it,” Eng said.

Randi F. Marshall

Talking Point

They’re baaack

It’s been said that if you sit at a table on the Champs-Élysées for long enough, you’ll see the whole world pass by.

But Paris has nothing on the Long Island Expressway this week.

First it was Pete King announcing that President Donald Trump would be in Bethpage on Wednesday to attend a roundtable discussion on MS-13 and gang violence. Then the news broke that Hillary Clinton would be at Hofstra University, also on Wednesday to address the New York State Democratic Convention and endorse Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for a third term.

The political scene boasts more angles than a Regents geometry exam.

  • The last time Trump and Clinton were together on Long Island was for the Hofstra presidential debate in 2016. Will Clinton be able to avoid reminiscing (or want to avoid it) when she makes a speech on the same campus.
  • Will the focus be on the 2018 gubernatorial race or the 2020 presidential race? Clinton is touting Cuomo, a New Yorker who wants a chance to face Trump in 2020 but needs decisive wins in the primary against Cynthia Nixon and the general election to validate his chances.
  • Is it wise for Cuomo, facing the Nixon forces that sprung from the campaign of Bernie Sanders, to have asked Clinton to sing his praises? Or does it remind everyone that one reason Trump is president is that Republicans found a way to unite behind a candidate the party disagreed with on most things, while Democrats still can’t seem to unify behind candidates with whom they agree about most things.
  • Should this be billed, a la classic Japanese monster movies, “Animals vs. Super Predators: Long Island”? Trump is being bashed by his enemies and embraced by his allies by calling MS-13 gang members “animals” which some have said was his view of all immigrants. Clinton, in her 2016 campaign, faced a backlash for a 1996 speech in which she called brutally murderous gang members “super predators” in a way that some felt implied bias against young African-American men.

And both are coming to Long Island, ostensibly to address New York issues, but in reality with a much more national goal in mind. Trump doesn’t need to convince Long Island of how bad MS-13 is, but believes the issue plays well nationally. And Cuomo knows he doesn’t need Clinton’s help in his governor’s race, where the same people who distrust him distrust her. The goal with that visit is national, too.

Lane Filler

Pencil Point

Mixed messages