2017-02-17 / Mayor Office


By: Nicholas P. Episcopia

LIRR Third Track

Garden City Chamber of Commerce President Thomas McCambridge invited me to attend the Chamber’s February 8 luncheon and express my opinion on the MTA/LIRR’s proposed third track expansion project. David Kapell, executive director of the Right Track for Long Island Coalition, served as the keynote speaker.

While Mr. Kapell spoke about regional benefits of the LIRR expansion project, I highlighted many of the concerns the Villages of Garden City, Floral Park and New Hyde Park have with the project as well as the environmental review process, as summarized by Beveridge & Diamond and The Vertex Companies, the experts we retained to analyze the lengthy Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).

Garden City, along with sister Villages of Floral Park and New Hyde Park and the Town of Hempstead, are all sharing in the costs of retaining these experts. I wish to again thank Town of Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino and the entire Town Council for their monetary contribution.

• Project Need: Much emphasis is placed on the need for a third track to deal with “congestion” due to equipment failure and accidents. The DEIS also suggests that there would have been fewer delayed or cancelled trains if there were a third track. Data, however, reveals a failure on the part of the LIRR to adequately inspect and maintain its equipment and existing infrastructure. Many of the Main Line events would have caused system wide problems even if there was a third track, including the February 8, 2017 derailment at Jamaica Station. This is not acknowledged in the DEIS. In fact, the DEIS states that there will be only one added rush hour morning train and one rush hour evening train. The Villages on the Main Line will suffer all the disruption of this construction and the rush hour commuters will only gain one extra train each way.

• Project Schedule: The MTA / LIRR asserts that the Project “conservatively” will take about four years to complete, will be completed in phases and will take six to nine months to complete each grade crossing separation project. The Vertex Report shows that, if anything, the scheduling assumptions have no basis in fact and could be “wildly optimistic.” Vertex further asserts that no schedule information is provided for certain components of the project and important contingencies are not factored into the Project schedule.

• Project Costs: The cost of the expansion project was projected at $1 billion in May 2016. In November 2016, when the DEIS was released, the projected cost totaled $2 billion. In just six months, the cost of this project doubled.

• Funding Sources: No source of funds is identified to pay for this project - not in the MTA Capital Plan and not in the new State budget. The Capital Plan Approval Board must unanimously say yes to any changes in the $29 billion plan approved in May 2016, however there is no guarantee that this will happen. If this is approved, however, the taxpayers have to shoulder the whole burden. Why not apply for federal funding? Perhaps federal funding is not being sought because federal environmental standards are much stricter.

• Population Growth: Included in the DEIS is the claimed growth in population in both Nassau and Suffolk counties, stating the population on Long Island is expected to grow. However, the New York State Department of Labor provides population data and analysis sourced to Cornel University. The data shows that Nassau County’s population is flat and Suffolk’s rate of growth has slowed significantly.

• Property Values: The DEIS fails to address socioeconomic impacts associated with diminution in residential property values. The three Villages requested that the final Scoping Document include a requirement to prepare a residential property value impact analysis. The MTA/LIRR refused, stating such an evaluation was beyond the scope of SEQRA.

• Impact on Residents: Residents living along the Main Line will be particularly affected by this project. For example, although the DEIS acknowledges that thick vegetation existing along the Main Line ROW will be removed to accommodate the third track and retaining walls, it fails to include a single photograph from a homeowner’s back yard. Further, the DEIS fails to address where equipment staging areas will be located during the construction period.

• Impact on Local Businesses: The DEIS pays little attention to impacts on local business districts within the three Villages of Floral Park, Garden City and New Hyde Park during construction. For example, 2nd Avenue in New Hyde Park runs directly adjacent to the north side of the Main Line and intersects with no less than three grade crossings that are slated for construction - New Hyde Park Road, South 12th Avenue and Covert Avenue.

• Freight: The analysis of freight impacts is misleading. Vertex confirmed that E80 Loading Standard is being used for the design of the rail infrastructure for the project. This standard will accommodate all forms of freight rail.

• Contaminated Materials: Vertex uncovered major deficiencies in the DEIS regarding contaminated materials. No analysis was ever conducted to evaluate whether construction or operation of the proposed project could potentially increase exposure to contaminated materials and whether the proposed project could result in potential adverse impacts to the public health and/or the environment. No data was ever gathered to determine what the potential threat is.

• Drainage: The DEIS fails to adequately address drainage impacts to residences and other properties adjacent to the Main Line, where the LIRR ROW will be elevated and retaining walls will be installed.

• Retaining Walls: The DEIS fails to explain how these retaining walls can be installed on the edge of the LIRR ROW without encroaching onto adjacent properties.

• Traffic: The traffic analysis for both construction and operation is flawed. No back up details are provided to assess the credibility or accuracy of the traffic counts included in the DEIS.

• Noise: Noise and vibration impacts are not adequately addressed in the DEIS, which Vertex concludes fails to include a site-specific noise analysis. In light of this, Vertex conducted a rudimentary evaluation of nine impacts during construction and found the following:

Floral Park:

57 properties in Floral Park will potentially experience greater than acceptable decibel levels during daytime work

172 properties will potentially experience greater than acceptable decibel levels during nighttime work

Garden City:

63 properties will potentially experience greater than acceptable decibel levels during daytime work

178 properties will potentially experience greater than acceptable decibel levels during nighttime work

New Hyde Park:

82 properties will potentially experience greater than acceptable decibel levels during daytime work

228 properties will potentially experience greater than acceptable decibel levels during nighttime work

• Alternatives: The Villages believe there are other less intrusive alternatives available. For example, the Jamaica Capacity Improvements Project streamlines the Jamaica track layout, according to the MTA/LIRR, while upgrading and modernizing the switch and signal system. This includes the installation of higher-speed switches.

The Vertex Report, as well as a summary by our environmental counsel, has been sent to the MTA/LIRR. We await their response. To read the DEIS in full, visit www.gardencityny.net and click on the “LIRR 3rd Track Information” tab.

Village offices closed for President's Day, February 20

Village offices will be closed on Monday, February 20, 2017 for President’s Day. For your convenience, correspondence for the Village may be placed in the “Letter” drop slot at the front door.

Sanitation Collection Presidents Day

There will be no Regular Garbage and Recycling Pickup on President’s Day, Monday, February 20 and there will be no Rubbish pickup on Wednesday, February 22, 2017.

The schedule for the holiday week will be as follows: Western half of the Village: Garbage -Tuesday, Thursday; Rubbish -Wednesday, March 1st

Eastern half of the Village: Garbage - Wednesday, Friday; Rubbish - Wednesday, March 1st

Residents scheduled for recycling on Monday, February 20, 2017 are asked to put their recyclables out on Monday, February 27. All other recycling days will remain the same. Rubbish collection has been rescheduled for Wednesday, March 1.

Village Faclities Tour March 11

A tour of newly renovated Village facilities will take place on Saturday, March 11, 2017 beginning at 9:00 a.m. The tour will leave from Village Hall and should last one-and-a-half to two hours.

Budget Work Session

The Board of Trustees will be conducting work sessions to review the proposed 2017/18 Operating/Capital Budgets on: Wednesday, March 1 at 7:30 p.m.

Overview of Operating Budgets and Capital Plan

Building Department Work Session

Library Work Session Thursday, March 9 at 7:30 p.m.

Department of Public Works & Water Fund Work Session

Police Department Work Session

Fire Department Work Session Wednesday, March 15 at 7:30 p.m.

Recreation, Pool and Tennis Work Session

Other General Expenses & Revenues Work Session

Administration & Finance Work Session Thursday, March 23 at 7:30 p.m.

If needed Monday, April 3 at 8:00 p.m.

Adoption of Budget

These sessions are currently scheduled to be held in the Board Room at Village Hall, 351 Stewart Avenue, Garden City, New York. All residents are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Board of Trustees Meeting Schedule

The next regularly scheduled Board of Trustees’ meetings will be on Thursday, February 2, 2017 and on Tuesday, February 21, 2017 at 8:00 p.m. I encourage all residents to attend Board of Trustees meetings so as to be thoroughly informed of Village issues from a first-hand perspective. Although the budget process is ongoing, the first budget presentation will be held at Village Hall on Wednesday, March 1, 2017 at 7:30 p.m.

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