3rd track meetings scheduled in 2 villages

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A Long Island Rail Road train pulls into the Great Neck station. (Photo by Adam Lidgett)

Leaders in two villages will hold informational meetings next Thursday to help residents better understand the Long Island Rail Road’s proposed third track project in advance of official public hearings later this month.

New Hyde Park village officials are to host a Jan. 12 meeting to give residents an overview of the draft environmental study of the project, and to present the village’s analysis of its potential impact on the village.

Project officials and other experts are set to visit Floral Park’s South Side Civic Association meeting the same night to answer questions and hear residents’ concerns about the project.

The meetings are meant as a primer on the LIRR’s $2 billion plan for residents who may not have parsed the hundreds of pages in the study but want to understand its implications before giving public comment on it, leaders in the villages said.

“My fear is that one morning we’re going to wake up and the trucks are gonna be here and the roads are going to be closed and construction is going to be going on for two years and people are going to say, ‘What’s going on here?’” said Lawrence Montreuil, New Hyde Park’s deputy mayor.

The LIRR released the results in November of its months-long study of its proposal to add a third track along a key 9.8-mile stretch of its Main Line between Floral Park and Hicksville.

Project planners will hold six hearings on the document from Jan. 17 to 19, including two at the Inn at New Hyde Park on Jan. 19. Residents can submit comments until Jan. 31.

New Hyde Park officials held a similar information session in May before public hearings on the LIRR’s scoping document, which outlined the environmental study.

As they have since Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the project a year ago, residents of the two villages remain concerned about the project’s adverse impact on traffic, property values and overall quality of life, Montreuil and Matthew Sexton, a South Side Civic Association officer, said.

The civic group’s meeting will give residents a chance to interact directly with John McCarthy, a senior outreach official with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and other experts, Sexton said.

Despite assertions from project officials and advocates, many Floral Park residents are still unconvinced of the project’s necessity, Sexton said, but the meeting will be one way they could talk with planners to get what they need from it.

“I don’t believe in the project and I don’t believe in a lot of what the railroad is stating in regards to why it needs to be done right now, but on the flip side it’s going be done,” Sexton said.

Planners have met and corresponded regularly with village officials, civic leaders and others along the Main Line to discuss the plans and their local impacts.

“We’re constantly meeting with our neighbors and stakeholders throughout Long Island to answer their questions and talk about how the project helps both commuters and local communities,” Shams Tarek, a project spokesman, said in a statement.

New Hyde Park Mayor Robert Lofaro has asked Cuomo to extend the public comment period, but has so far gotten no response.

Project supporters, including the Right Track for Long Island, a coalition of business groups, labor unions, nonprofits and academic institutions, say the third track would be an economic boon for Long Island, creating hundreds of jobs and boosting income.

The LIRR says it would provide capacity for more train service and improve reliability by giving trains a way around incidents that can currently cause delays across the railroad system.

The project would not require any residential property acquisitions and would eliminate all seven street-level railroad crossings along the corridor, which planners say would improve traffic flow at key intersections and reduce noise.

Plans also include new parking garages in New Hyde Park in Mineola, sound barriers and renovations at several stations along the corridor, according to the environmental study.

The Village of New Hyde Park’s informational meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 12 at the New Hyde Park Road School, located at 300 New Hyde Park Road in New Hyde Park.

The South Side Civic Association’s meeting starts at 7 p.m. the same night at the Floral Park Recreation Center, located at 124 Stewart St. in Floral Park.

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