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Daily Point

Reset button hit on third track

Let the countdown begin, again.

The drama that surrounded state leaders did not end last Thursday with the “extraordinary session” that wrapped up the State Legislature’s work for the year.

On Friday, on the eve of the long holiday weekend, Beth Garvey, counsel to the GOP Senate conference, formally notified Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office that Majority Leader John Flanagan planned to veto the MTA’s spending authorization for the LIRR’s critical third-track project later that night.

Garvey’s call set in motion plan B, with the MTA hours later withdrawing the entire $32.5 billion capital plan, which includes $1.9 billion to add a third track between Floral Park and Hicksville, and $400 million for electronic tolling on bridges and tunnels.

On Friday, Flanagan couldn’t be found by the The Point, but at 10:16:53 that evening, the GOP Senate press staff, which earned combat pay last week, issued a 98-word statement from the majority leader:

“I commend Governor Cuomo and the MTA for temporarily withdrawing the proposed amendment to the MTA’s capital program. Given the derailments and service disruptions that have jeopardized rider safety and paralyzed the region’s mobility, the withdrawal of this proposed amendment will provide the MTA and its chairman, Joe Lhota, with the opportunity to develop a comprehensive solution to the ongoing commuter crisis. I look forward to reviewing the MTA’s forthcoming plan and working together to return our region’s mass transportation system to a state of good repair. Long Island Rail Road commuters and their families deserve nothing less.”

Had Flanagan actually told Sen. Martin Golden, the Senate’s rep on the MTA’s Capital Program Review Board, to exercise his veto, the board would have had to revote on the entire project for it move again to the capital plan review.

That board has four members — one each appointed by the governor, the Assembly speaker, the Senate majority leader and New York City’s mayor. The mayor’s appointee, however, has a veto only over New York City Transit-related projects.

Flanagan’s statement didn’t mention the third track at all. He has yet to take a public position on the project as he frets over what the project means politically to GOP Senate candidates in 2018.

Now if he still intends to veto the project, Flanagan has bought himself another 30 days to find the words to justify to Long Islanders why Senate Republicans want to throw away almost $2 billion earmarked for major improvements to the LIRR.

Rita Ciolli and Randi F. Marshall

Pencil Point


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Quick Points

What a Manic Wednesday

  • White House homeland security adviser Thomas Bossert says President Donald Trump retweeting a video of himself body-slamming CNN in a WWE-style wrestling show was not a threat, and White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says Trump has never encouraged violence. What a relief to know that was just an idle musing.
  • Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) says putting too much into one piece of health care legislation makes it too difficult to pass. Translation: Just put in the stuff we conservatives really want and we’ll worry about the rest later. Or not.
  • Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) says he doesn’t know whether he’s going to run for president in 2020. He also says he wants “to unleash the fullness of who I am right now.” Sounds like he’d run in November if there were an election.
  • Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price says President Donald Trump’s Twitter habit is not a concern and he can “do more than one thing at a time.” Which thrills about 35 percent of Americans, and terrifies everyone else.

Michael Dobie