A train at the Port Washington LIRR station.

A train at the Port Washington LIRR station. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Daily Point

Déjà vu on long-awaited rail yard expansion

Earlier this year, Town of North Hempstead and Long Island Rail Road officials negotiated a memorandum of understanding to pave the way for the expansion of a rail yard in Port Washington — an effort more than 15 years in the making.

At a meeting in March, Town Supervisor Jennifer DeSena and State Sen. Jack Martins, both Republicans, and Town Councilwoman Mariann Dalimonte and Assemb. Gina Sillitti, both Democrats, seemed to be on the same page, according to multiple sources familiar with the conversation that day.

All the rail yard needed after that was town board approval. But getting that hasn’t been easy.

The MOU establishes guidelines for expanding the rail yard, which would allow for more service on the Port Washington line. The MOU notes that existing leases must be amended and multiple easements established to give the railroad access to the property required to extend the rail yard. Once the MOU is in place, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority can add the project to its next capital plan. Town officials said the MOU provides a pathway for further study before any work is done, but the document itself notes that both the town and the LIRR “agree to take all such necessary actions as soon as possible to implement the Yard Track Extension Project …”

Months after the initial discussions and agreement, the town board still hasn’t approved the agreement.

In April, it was tabled because Dalimonte, who represents the Port Washington area, said she hadn’t had time to review it. In May, it was tabled again, because Dalimonte wanted more time to talk with her constituents.

At last week’s town board meeting, DeSena tried again to untable the MOU but it wasn’t officially on the agenda. Town attorney Rich Nicolello said during the meeting that the Republican-controlled board could untable an item at any time as long as it was properly noticed originally, but Dalimonte and fellow Democrat Robert Troiano objected.

“It’s unfair to now allow it to be untabled for a vote when the residents who may be interested are not participating because they don’t even know it was going to be discussed,” Troiano said during the meeting.

DeSena eventually agreed to table the MOU a third time — until a special meeting she promised to call.

That meeting will be held Tuesday. The MOU is the only item on the agenda.

The expansion of the Port Washington rail yard has been discussed — and rejected — by multiple North Hempstead supervisors and town boards. After the opening of Grand Central Madison, when Port Washington commuters realized they weren’t getting the same service improvements as other branches, the rail yard took on greater urgency.

“What we’re looking at right now is: Do we go forward or do we not go forward? If we don’t enter into this MOU, we’re not going forward,” DeSena said. “We’re about to lose the opportunity to do this study and the opportunity to improve the whole Port Washington train line.”

This latest push came after Gov. Kathy Hochul paused congestion pricing, sources told The Point, putting some projects at risk because the MTA will have less capital funding than expected. Sources said Martins prodded town officials to vote quickly on the MOU.

“I think it’s an important project for the Port Washington community as well as the Manhasset and Great Neck communities,” Martins told The Point. “We need to have the political leadership to get it done and we need to prioritize it.”

That doesn’t mean previous concerns have evaporated. Residents again are raising questions about losing parking spaces and other property and it’s unclear how Dalimonte, who did not return The Point’s calls for comment, will vote. But sources said the Republican majority on the board is expected to vote to move forward with the MOU.

“Is there a little bit of déjà vu from 10 years ago? Yes,” Sillitti told The Point. “But parking is a legitimate concern residents have since parking is at such a premium … I hope [residents] come out and make their voices heard. I’m supportive of this project. We have a premier train line and we should have a premier train station. It just has to be done the right way.”

— Randi F. Marshall randi.marshall@newsday.com

Pencil Point

The remedy of choice

Credit: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Mike Luckovich

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Final Point

Absence of good faith

  • New York State has issued emergency orders to its public campaign finance system to better verify contributors before the state matches their contributions — essentially ending the use of “good-faith” letters to verify contributors. Ahem, this is New York; there is no good faith when it comes to campaign contributions.
  • President Joe Biden said in an ABC interview that he gets a cognitive test every day because he is “running the world.” Which presumes that he is in fact the one who’s running the world.
  • One of two radio talk show hosts who interviewed President Joe Biden says the questions they asked Biden were given to them in advance by members of Biden’s team. Yeah, that’s sure to convince people he’s ready for the rigors of campaigning.
  • Iran elected a reform candidate as president, rather than a conservative hard-liner. Here’s guessing you did not have that on your bucking-the-international-move-to-the-right bingo card.
  • Artificial intelligence is increasingly used by company human resources departments to read resumes of jobseekers — who might as well take that as permission to let AI write the resumes, too.
  • President Joe Biden says he’s staying in the race until the Almighty tells him to drop out. Paging Barack Obama.
  • One of the best all-time screenwriters, he created memorable characters, intricate plot lines, and one of the most indelible lines in cinematic history: “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.” RIP, Robert Towne.

— Michael Dobie michael.dobie@newsday.com

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