By Jano Tantongco
The Huntington Town Board has formally declared its support for the Long Island Rail Road Third Track Expansion Project, urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York State to “take every step necessary” to approve and allocate funds for the project.
The support was given through a resolution sponsored by Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone and Councilman Mark Cuthbertson that was unanimously approved by the board during Tuesday’s meeting.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority first proposed a third track on the LIRR’s Main Line in 2005 and hosted multiple community meetings to hash out the plan. Originally met with strong opposition for the 9.8-mile line, the plan was modified to exclude any need to acquire residential property and scale back the need for commercial properties by building the new track on the existing LIRR right of way.
Cuomo made a push to renew the project in his state of the state address last year.
Most recently, the MTA has identified on Jan. 31 a list of private construction firms that qualify as bidders for the project.
“This pivotal project will drive the long-overdue modernization of the LIRR,” said LIRR President Patrick Nowakowski. “The governor’s proposal will achieve critically important reliability and service improvements for customers, but differs completely from prior proposals by minimizing the impacts of construction on local communities.”
However, the project has been hotly debated in Nassau, particularly in the areas it would affect between Floral Park and Hicksville.
Petrone, however, said following Tuesday’s meeting that the project would benefit “the rest of Long Island.”
“It’s not a one-town issue. It’s not a one hamlet issue. It’s for all of Long Island. It affects Huntington. It affects our expansion program for the LIRR. And, we know that there are more and more commuters,” he said.
Petrone said the plan would be a “vital” piece of the puzzle for Huntington, in addition to improvements in affordable housing accessibility, as well as the creation of a parking structure in Huntington village.
“When you improve that infrastructure, you’re improving the commutability and have positions and will work in the city,” Petrone said. “They don’t have to turn around and say Huntington is too far, it takes too long to get to.”
He also said that this project deals with the expansion of east-west access, but looking forward he hopes for eventual discussion of north-south access, as well.
“How do we do that and connect people so they don’t have to take their cars all the time?” Petrone asked.
Ann Corbett, former mayor of the Incorporated Village of Floral Park and founder of nonprofit Citizens Against Rail Expansion, said she founded CARE in 2005 to oppose the plan. After 2008, as the MTA withdrew its ambitions for the project, CARE also scaled back.
She said the plan still has potential for environmental contamination; would create a traffic “nightmare;” and could exacerbate parking congestion.
She called the Huntington Town Board’s decision “disappointing, but not unexpected.”
Corbett added, “In Nassau County and the communities of Floral Park, New Hyde Park and Garden City particularly, we’re very concerned about the construction of this track… how it will affect people in the community.”