Rider fury spurred reversal on LIRR cuts
The return of 24-hour subway service is "on the near horizon," Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman and Chief Executive Pat Foye said in an interview with The Point on Wednesday.
"In the weeks and months ahead we’re going to be resuming 24-hour service on the subway," Foye said. "That’s a positive thing."
Foye’s comments came a day after the Long Island Rail Road reversed a decision to further limit commuter rail service. Service will be returned to the LIRR’s timetable that predated this week’s changes as of March 29, and trains will be added as needed between now and then. Service is still well below pre-pandemic levels.
The reversal on Tuesday came after two days of riders’ posts to social media that featured photos of crowded train cars, leading a slew of elected officials to protest the service reductions.
Minutes after LIRR President Phil Eng announced the railroad would return to its more robust schedule, the back-patting and self-congratulations began.
"LIRR to Restore Service Following Zeldin, Garbarino Urging MTA Leadership to Reverse Course," screamed one subject line in an email that said the MTA’s decision came after Reps. Lee Zeldin and Andrew Garbarino had asked the authority to make the change.
Said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, in a similar statement, "After making clear to the MTA that new LIRR service cuts were unacceptable, I’m pleased to report that the MTA has agreed to reverse course and restore previously scheduled service."
"This victory for riders happened because we worked together to make our voices heard," said State Sen Todd Kaminsky, who had posted the photos of crowded train cars to his Twitter feed. "I will continue to fight for LIRR riders and hold the MTA accountable."
Rep. Tom Suozzi highlighted the LIRR decision on his Twitter feed. "Thanks to the many LIRR riders who reached out w/your concerns," Suozzi said, also acknowledging union leader Anthony Simon and LIRR workers "for calling my attention to the situation."
Foye told The Point that there were three parties responsible for the MTA’s reversal.
"It was driven by our customers and the Governor and the Majority Leader of the United States Senate," Foye said.
And it’s probably fair to say all three were pretty angry as they demanded the change on Monday and Tuesday.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had raised concerns regarding the reduced LIRR schedule on Monday, noting that with billions of dollars in federal relief, the service cuts "make no sense right now." And Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who appointed Foye and most voting MTA board members, said Tuesday he was "calling on the Long Island Rail Road to reverse what they’ve done."
But it was the riders who had flooded social media and their elected officials’ email boxes with complaints, complete with photo evidence and worries that they were going to get sick, whose anger was loudest.
So, while everyone took a bit of the credit, the commuters who raised hell should get the lion’s share.
—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall
Hochul gets face time at the LIA
The Long Island Association’s annual State of the Region Report Wednesday morning was the last one hosted by Kevin Law, who is moving on next month after having run the organization for more than a decade.
The Zoom event featured an appearance by Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, who despite coming to LI for hundreds of events, is suddenly getting a lot more attention these days.
Law even made her an "honorary Long Islander" because she has been down here so much, for gatherings Hochul called her "ribbon cuttings."
(The Point’s investigatory team is checking for what hidden perks come with the honorary title. The official Long Island diner guide with discount coupons, perhaps?)
Hochul returned the compliments to Law on his tenure with the business organization and both regional county executives, Steve Bellone and Laura Curran, added plaudits. But there was little mention of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who has worked closely with Law and has been known to pop into LIA events or send a video message.
Hochul was indirect. "I know you are used to seeing Power Points out of Albany," she said, as she launched into a second-floor presentation of Cuomo’s signature infrastructure accomplishments such as the Long Island Rail Road’s Third Track project and the new Moynihan Station, as well as the push for more wind power off LI’s coast.
She ended her remarks by saying, "The best news of all is the stimulus plan Chuck Schumer delivered for New York. Yay!"
Hochul called the plan "a game changer" for the state budget. She finished off by noting the controversy over Monday’s reduction in LIRR service. Hochul said, "The governor announced the cutbacks were restored. We fixed that very quickly."
—Rita Ciolli @ritaciolli
Not a team effort
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The story behind the Suozzi-Pelosi photobomb
So how did Tom Suozzi photobomb House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s floor speech moments before the chamber passed the final version of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan? It’s a video clip widely played in Wednesday's news reports and one certain to enter the history books.
The Point had to know how this Schumer-istic move came about for LI’s representative from CD3.
Suozzi was outside the chamber — more precisely, in the Rayburn Room — on a Zoom call with Reach Out America, a constituent group from Great Neck, when his staff began texting that he quickly had to get on the floor. "It’s your turn," said one of the texts about delivering one of the closing sets of remarks about the bill. The live C-SPAN feed shows Suozzi hastily coming down the aisle to the floor podium, apparently not realizing that Pelosi was seated nearby waiting for her turn.
After he contributed his one minute for the Congressional Record and turned to leave, Suozzi spotted Pelosi. "That was a great speech," said Pelosi, according to Suozzi. He moved into the row in front of her to respond, and then seized the opportunity to sit down.
A few minutes later, Pelosi rose and went to the lectern. And there sat Suozzi, framed in the money shot behind her left shoulder.
—Rita Ciolli @ritaciolli