Unprecedented, Bipartisan Support from Corridor Representatives Demonstrates Projects Appeal to Both Local and Regional Communities.
Westbury, New York – (March 24, 2017) – The Right Track for Long Island Coalition applauded several Nassau county elected officials today, including Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro, Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss, Oyster Bay Supervisor Joe Saladino and others who attended a press conference signaling unprecedented support for the LIRR’s Expansion Project in corridor communities.
“When we look back at LIRR Expansion Project we will wonder how Long Island ever existed without it,” said Kevin Law, Co-Chairman of Right Track for Long Island Coalition and President and CEO of the Long Island Association. “The businesses and residents along the corridor now recognize that they have the most to gain when it comes to the revitalization of their communities, property values and job growth. I thank the Nassau officials who have lent their support to the project today.”
The Right Track for Long Island Coalition is a grassroots group made up of over 400 businesses, labor unions, non-profits, municipal organizations and individuals, now representing more than 2 million Long Islanders. The announcement of new support follows the MTA’s assertion that the bottleneck between Floral Park and Hicksville is responsible for regular system-wide delays for all LIRR branches. It also signifies increased momentum for the project, as the Village of Westbury, the Village of Mineola, the Town of North Hempstead and the Town of Oyster Bay have all opposed past versions of the project plan..
“We applaud the local leadership in Westbury, Mineola, Oyster Bay and Hempstead for not only coming to the table on this project, but for recognizing that there were major gains to be made for their communities,” said Dave Kapell, Executive Director of Right Track for Long Island Coalition. “Thanks to their leadership, the communities of central Nassau will be totally transformed into flagship neighborhoods with bustling downtowns, safer streets and infrastructure worthy of the 21st century. We congratulate the newly elected mayors in Garden City, Floral Park and New Hyde Park and hope they will join the growing local consensus in support of the project.””
The Coalition was formed as a collaborative effort to support the LIRR Expansion Project, which is a top economic, environmental and transit priority for Long Island and will help retain and attract the young people and new business essential for the future health of the region. The Coalition has geographically diverse support, with 35% of its membership being based solely in Nassau County, 47% in Suffolk, 11% of members with a bi-county presence, and 7% other.
“We are extremely confident that New York’s State Environmental Quality Review Act process has provided an accessible, rigorous, and definitive path for the Long Island Rail Road Expansion Project to move forward,” said Laborer’s Local 1298 Business Manager George Truicko, Co-Chair of the Right Track for Long Island Coalition. “As the new track will include sound attenuation walls, the elimination of grade crossings, and the easing of traffic congestion, we believe this project will be a benefit for residents and commuters alike. It is our opinion that the Vertex Report is an unfortunate attempt to stonewall public infrastructure that would benefit a vast majority of Long Island residents.”
“This is a major win for local communities,” said Kyle Strober, Executive Director, Association for A Better Long Island (ABLI). “Not only will central Nassau residents see the most dramatic changes, from decreased local traffic and noise, to modernized LIRR platforms and more reliable train service – but they will also see their property values increase as downtowns are revitalized and restored. This project is about attracting the next generation of Long Islanders and keeping our region competitive.”
The Coalition credits recent growth to a high level of community engagement by the Governor’s office and the MTA within and beyond the corridor area – as well as the robust EIS document that was released in January. The document details efforts to mitigate construction, such as satellite parking for workers to avoid unnecessary traffic on local roads, scheduling construction in a way that is sensitive to schools and local traffic, and a door-to-door outreach effort with a 24/7 hotline. It also reveals important new elements of the project beneficial to surrounding communities, such as sound walls, five new state-of-the-art stations, six new parking facilities for 2300 cars and extensive environmental testing.
According to two recent reports from the Long Island Index, “The Economic and Fiscal Impacts of the Long Island Railroad Main Line Third Track” and “How the Long Island Rail Road Could Shape the Next Economy,” the short term effects of the project include the creation of 2250 construction jobs, and the generation of $910 million in cumulative personal income and $910 million in cumulative Gross Regional Product. Ten years after the project is completed, 14,000 new jobs will have been created; 35,000 new residents (almost 40% of whom would be 25-44 years old) will have been added, along with $40 million in sales tax revenue, $103 million in property tax revenue, $3 billion in personal income, and $5.6 billion in Gross Regional Product. The Project has been unanimously endorsed by the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council.
The two existing tracks of the Main Line along the project route were constructed in the 19th century when the alternative to rail was a horse and buggy. At the time, the entire population of Long Island was 50,000. Two centuries later, the LIRR’s daily ridership averages 304,000, more than six times the entire 19th century population the system was designed for. According to the document issued by the state, the corridor between Floral Park and Hicksville is where five of the LIRR’s eleven branches converge, carrying 41% of the LIRR daily ridership.
This condition constitutes an extreme bottleneck that chokes the system, thereby severely constraining its expansion and modernization and turning it into a one-way street during peak service hours. Most important, it prevents the transit-oriented economic development that the Coalition believes is essential if Long Island is to be competitive in a 21st-century economy and attractive to young people to live and work here.