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Ruling needed in Third Track case

Garden City officials are using the Denton Avenue

Garden City officials are using the Denton Avenue bridge as a pawn in their efforts to protest the large utility poles along their side of the LIRR tracks. Credit: Metropolitan Transportation Authority

The Long Island Rail Road is stuck at a critical crossing.

And it's a single community that's standing in the railroad's way.

By unreasonably refusing to issue a simple work permit, the Village of Garden City has put the expansion of the region's public transit system on hold and may end up costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

Since the village won't bend, it's time for others to get the train moving again, especially the judge presiding over the legal challenge.

The LIRR's Third Track project is due for completion by the end of next year. But to get it done, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has to reconstruct the Denton Avenue Bridge in Garden City. That requires the work permit the village refuses to provide.

While some residents are concerned about the look of the bridge, or the roadway beneath it, the real issue has nothing to do with the bridge. Instead, village officials are using the bridge as a pawn in their efforts to protest the large utility poles along their side of the railroad tracks.

Ultimately, the village's intransigence could delay completion of the Third Track. That would mean Long Islanders, including many residents of Garden City itself, would have to wait even longer for the expanded service, decreased congestion, and easier reverse commute they've been craving. Also hanging in the balance: the benefits of the East Side Access connection to Grand Central Terminal and the ability to provide full-time service at the new Elmont-UBS Arena station.

To avoid such delays, the MTA now is finalizing an alternative, temporary approach — one that could add a track without fully reconstructing the bridge. That wouldn't require a village permit but would add millions of dollars to the Third Track cost and force further service shutdowns in the future to make the more permanent fix. If that happens, Garden City will be to blame.

The MTA has sued the village to force it to provide the permit, and in August, issued a letter requesting an expedited review. So far, the court has been silent. The case is in the hands of Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Helen Voutsinas. Why is it taking so long to get a resolution, one way or the other?

In the meantime, political pressure might push Garden City to do the right thing. That starts with Gov. Kathy Hochul, who could use her influence to mediate the dispute. Local officials, including incoming Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman; State Sen. Kevin Thomas, who represents the district; Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin, who lives in Garden City; and other village mayors, could lend their voices, too. The villages along Third Track that have worked with the MTA should be especially outraged that Garden City now refuses to do so.

Long Island needs this resolved quickly, so the region can move forward.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.