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Opinion

Meet the new LIRR president

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Breaking Point

The new LIRR president

The new president of the Long Island Rail Road has been riding the trains into Manhattan from his home in Smithtown every weekday for years.

Starting Monday, though, Phil Eng will have to change his commuting pattern and head to the LIRR’s base in Jamaica.

Eng, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s chief operating officer, might be a familiar face to some Long Islanders. Before moving to the MTA, Eng was at the state Department of Transportation, where he served as chief engineer and executive deputy commissioner. There, he was extensively involved in moving the LIRR’s third-track proposal forward, often as the state’s public face at extensive community meetings and hearings over the last two years.

And he’s also familiar with plans to improve the rails, as he worked on and unveiled the subway action plan released last summer while serving as interim chief of New York City Transit.

Eng, who has an engineering background, will replace Pat Nowakowski, who will resign Friday. Nowakowski’s departure had been in the works, but leaked Wednesday night, leading MTA officials to move up their announcement. Wednesday’s MTA confirmation of Nowakowski’s resignation did not mention who’d replace him. But by Thursday morning, elected officials and others were being told Eng was the choice.

Despite months of mounting criticism, the MTA allowed Nowakowski a graceful exit, in stark contrast to the person he replaced. Helena Williams, the former head of the LIRR who is now chief deputy to Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, was summarily dismissed by then-MTA boss Thomas Pendergast, who resented her independence and outspokenness.

But now, insiders say Eng likely will bring some of that independence and outspokenness back to the job.

“By no means should he be considered the status quo,” one source who knows Eng told The Point. “He’s going to be a breath of fresh air for the Long Island [Rail Road] workforce and for commuters.”

Randi F. Marshall

Pointing Out

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Reference Point

#TBT: The assessor’s coming

The tax reassessor is knocking on the door and a husband and wife cower inside, inventing a plethora of diseases infecting the family to keep the man from entering their home.

This cartoon inked by Pulitzer Prize winner Tom Darcy ran on this day in 1976. But the emotions it evokes are just as relevant today.

Once again, Nassau plans to reassess every property in the county, which will result in increased taxes for those who have grieved repeatedly, and again some homeowners are nervous.

In 1976, a debate about whether to move to a full-value assessment system roiled the state. The conventional wisdom, a Newsday story noted the following month, was that most homeowners would see property tax increases.

But a special task force report to then-Gov. Hugh Carey said that inequities in current assessment practices — sound familiar? — meant that “only” 40 percent of homeowners would see increases of more than 10 percent. And the task force provided a glaring example: Only 68 of 991 municipalities outside New York City had assessments that were accurate within 20 percent.

Nassau seems to be a charter member of that group.

Oh, and one more thing: The task force that reported to Carey was examining the way education is financed via local property taxes. And here we are, still examining 42 years later, older but apparently no wiser.

Michael Dobie

Columns